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Full text of "The life and writings of Thomas Paine : containing a biography"

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BOOK 320.81.P165 1908 v/.8 c 

3 T153 0007"lbbD T 

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is limited to five hundred numbered 
copies, of which this is 








CLIO ^4W^^^ 4^ ^'E^^^^^^^^«NS BY 
(Napoleon rc^oit au Louvre les Deputes de I'Armee) 

Photogravure from an Original Painting 


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Essays, Letters, and Addresses page 

To the Public on Mr. Deane's Affair - - 1 

Autobiographical Sketch - - - - 50 

Messrs. Deane, Jay and Gerard - - 59 

(1) Peace, and the Newfoundland Fisheries 71 

(2) Peace, and the Newfoundland Fisheries 81 

(3) Peace, and the Newfoundland Fisheries 93 

The American Philosophical Society - - 113 

Emancipation of Slaves - - - - 117 

Public Good - 120 

Letter to the Abbe Raynal, 1782 - - 180 

Dissertations on Government; the Affairs of 

the Bank ; and Paper Money - - - 287 



Napoleon at Versailles - - Frontispiece 

Photogravure from an Original Painting 

His Majesty George III - - - - 70 
Photogravure from the Original Painting by 
Sir Joshua Reynolds, presented to the 
Royal Academy of Arts, London 

Thomas Jefferson - - - - -116 

Photogravure from the Original Painting by 
Gilbert Stuart in Bowdoin College 

James Monroe ------ g86 

Photogravure from an Original Painting 




From the Pennsylvania Packet of December 
31, 1778, and January 2, 5, 7, and 9, 1779. 

HOPING this to be my last on the subject of 
Mr. Deane's conduct and address, I shall 
therefore make a few remarks on what has al- 
ready appeared in the papers, and furnish you 
with some interesting and explanatory facts ; and 
whatever I may conceive necessary to say of 
myself will conclude the piece. As it is my de- 
sign to make those that can scarcely read under- 
stand, I shall therefore avoid every literary 
ornament, and put it in language as plain as the 

I desire the public to understand that this is 
not a personal dispute between Mr. Deane and 
me, but is a matter of business in which they are 
more interested than they seemed at first to be 
apprised of. I rather wonder that no person was 
curious enough to ask in the papers how affairs 



stood between Congress and Mr. Deane as to 
money matters. And likewise, what it was that 
Mr. Deane has so repeatedly applied to the Con- 
gress for without success. 

Perhaps those two questions, properly asked, 
and justly answered, would have unraveled a 
great part of the mystery, and explained the rea- 
son why he threw out, at such a particular time, 
such a strange address. They might likewise have 
asked, whether there had been any former dis- 
pute between Mr. Deane and Arthur or WiUiam 
Lee, and what it was about. Mr. Deane's round- 
about charges against the Lees, are accompanied 
with a kind of rancor, that differs exceedingly 
from public-spirited zeal. For my part, I have 
but a very slender opinion of those patriots, if 
they can be called such, who never appear till pro- 
voked to it by a personal quarrel, and then blaze 
away, the hero of their own tale, and in a whirl- 
wind of their own raising ; such men are very sel- 
dom what the populace mean by the word 
"stanch," and it is only by a continuance of serv- 
ice that any public can become a judge of a man's 

When I first took up this matter, I expected 
at least to be abused, and I have not been disap- 
pointed. It was the last and only refuge they 


had, and, thank God, I had nothing to dread 
from it. I might have escaped it if I would, 
either by being silent, or by joining in the tumult. 
A gentleman, a member of Congress, an asso- 
ciate, I believe, of Mr. Deane's, and one whom 
I would wish had not a hand in the piece signed 
Plain Truth, very politely asked me, a few days 
before Common Sense to Mr. Deane came out, 
whether on that subject I was pro or con? I re- 
plied, I knew no pro or con, nor any other sides 
than right or wrong. 

Mr. Deane had objected to my putting the 
signature of Common Sense to my address to 
him, and the gentleman who came to my lodgings 
urged the same objections; their reasons for so 
doing may, I think, be easily guessed at. The 
signature has, I believe, an extensive reputation, 
and which, I trust, will never be forfeited while 
in my possession. As I do not choose to comply 
with the proposal that was made to me for chang- 
ing it, therefore Mr. Plain Truth, as he calls 
himself, and his connections, may endeavor to 
take off from the credit of the signature, by a 
torrent of low-toned abuse, without wit, matter 
or sentiment. t 

Had Mr. Deane confined himself to his 
proper line of conduct, he would never have been 



interrupted by me, or exposed himself to suspi- 
cious criticism. But departing from this, he has 
thrown himself on the ocean of the public, where 
nothing but the firmest integrity can preserve 
him from becoming a wreck. A smooth and flat- 
tering tale may do for a while, but unless it can 
be supported with facts, and maintained by the 
most incontestible proof, it wiU fall to the 
ground, and leave the inventor in the lurch. 

On the first view of things, there is something 
in Mr. Deane's conduct which must appear mys- 
terious to every disinterested man, if he will but 
give himself time to reflect. Mr. Deane has been 
arrived in America, and in this city, upwards of 
five months, and had he been possessed of any 
secrets which aff'ected, or seemed to afl*ect, the 
interest of America, or known any kind of 
treachery, misconduct, or neglect of duty in any 
of the other commissioners, or in any other per- 
son, he ought, as an honest man, to have disclosed 
it immediately on his arrival, either to the Com- 
mittee for Foreign Afl*airs, of which I have the 
honor to be secretary, or to Congress. Mr. 
Deane has done neither, notwithstanding he has 
had two audiences with Congress in August last, 
and might at any time have laid his written in- 
formation before them, or before the Committee, 


through whom all his foreign concerns Had 
passed, and in whose hands, or rather in mine, are 
lodged all his political correspondence, and those 
of other commissioners. 

From an unwillingness to expose Mr. Deane 
and his adherents too much, I contented myself 
in my first piece with showing their inconsist- 
ency rather than their intentions, and gave them 
room to retract by concealing their discredit. It 
is necessary that I should now speak a plainer 

The public have totally mistaken this matter, 
and when they come to understand it rightly, they 
will see it in a very different light to what they 
at first supposed it. They seemed to conceive, 
and great pains have been taken to make them 
believe, that Mr. Deane had repeatedly applied to 
Congress to obtain an audience, in order to lay 
before them some great and important discov- 
eries, and that the Congress had refused to hear 
such information. It is. Gentlemen, no such 
thing. If Mr. Deane or any one else had told 
you so, they have imposed upon you. 

If you attend to a part of Mr. Deane*s Ad- 
dress to you, you will find there, even from his 
own account, what it was that he wanted an in- 
terview with Congress for, viz. to get some how 



or other through his own perplexed affairs, and 
obtain an audience of leave and departure that he 
might embark for France, and which if he could 
have obtained, there is every reason to beheve, he 
would have quitted America in silence, and that 
the public would never have been favored with 
his address, nor I plagued with the trouble of 
putting it to rights. The part which I allude to 
is this, "and having placed my papers and yours 
in safety, I left Paris, in full confidence that 
I should not be detained in America," to which 
he adds this curious expression, " on the business 
I was sent for." To be " detained " at home is 
a new transposition of ideas, especially in a man 
who has been absent from it two years and a half, 
and serves to show that Mr. Deane was become 
so wonderfully f oreignized that he had quite for- 
gotten poor Connecticut. 

As I shall have frequent occasions to make 
use of the name of Congress, I request you to 
suspend all kinds of opinions on any supposed ob- 
ligations which I am said to lie under to that 
body, till you hear what I have to say in the con- 
clusion of this address, for if Mr. Deane's ac- 
counts stand as clear with them as mine do, he 
might very easily have brought his papers from 
France. I have several times repeated, and I 


again repeat it, that my whole design in taking 
this matter up, was and is, to prevent the pubHc 
being imposed upon, and the event must and wiU 
convince them of it. 

I now proceed to put the affair into such a 
straight Hne that you cannot misunderstand it. 

Mr. Deane wrote his address to you some 
time in November, and kept it by him in order to 
pubHsh or not as it might suit his purpose.* 

* This is fully proved by the address itself which is dated 
November, but without any day of the month, and the same is 
likewise acknowledged by his blundering friend Mr. Plain Truth. 
His words are, "Mr. Deane, it is true, wrote his address" (dated 
November) "previous to his application to Congress, of the thirtieth 
of November." He certainly could not write it after, there being, 
unfortunately for him, but thirty days in that month; "but," con- 
tinues Mr. Plaik Truth, "he was determined notwithstanding 
some forceable reasons, which the vigilant part of the public are at 
no loss to guess, not to publish it if he could be assured of an 
early audience with Congress." Mr. Deane was in a confounded 
hurry, sure that he could not submit to be detained in America 
tiU the next day, for on that very next day, December first, in 
consequence of his letter the Congress, "Resolved to spend two 
hours each day, beginning at six in the evening, till the state of 
their foreign affairs should be fully ascertained." This naturally 
included all and every part of Mr. Deane's affairs, information 
and everything else, and it is impossible but he (connected as he 
is with some late and present members of Congress) should know 
immediately about it. 

I should be glad to be informed what those "forceable reasons" 
are at which the vigilant part of the public "guess" and likewise 
how early Mr. Deane expected an audience, since the resolution 
of the next day appears to have been too late, I am suspicious 
that it was too soon, and that Mr. Deane and his connections were 
not prepared for such an early examination notwithstanding he 
had been here upwards of five months, and if the thing is to be 
"guessed" at at last, and that by the vigilant part of the publiC; 



On the thirtieth day of the same month he applied 
by letter to Congress, and what do you think it 
was for? To give them any important informa- 
tion? No. To "tell them what he has wrote to 
you?" No, it was to acquaint them that he had 
missed agreeable opportunities of returning to 
France; dismal misfortune indeed ! And that the 
season (of the year) is now becoming as pressing 
as the business which calls him bach, and therefore 
he earnestly entreated the attention of Congress, 
to what? To his great information? No, to his 
important discoveries? No, but to his own situa- 
tion and requests. These are, I believe, his own 

Now it only remains to know whether Mr. 
Deane's official affairs were in a fit position for 

I think I have as great a right to guess as most men, and Mr. 
Plain Truth, if he pleases, may guess what I mean; but lest he 
should mistake I will tell him my guess, it is, that the whole 
afiFair is a juggle to amuse the people with, in order to prevent 
the state of foreign affairs being inquired into, and Mr. Deane's 
accounts, and those he is connected with in America settled 
as they ought to be; and were I to go on guessing, I should like- 
wise guess that this is the reason why his accounts are left behind, 
though I know many people inclined to guess that he has them 
with him but has forgot them; for my part I don't choose at 
present to go so far. If any one can give a better guess than I 
have done I shall give mine up, but as the gentlemen choose to 
submit it to a guess, I choose therefore to take them upon their 
own terms, and put in for the honor of being right. It was, I 
think, an injudicious word for them to use, especially at Christmas 



him to be permitted to quit America or not ; and 
I trust, that when I tell you, I have been secre- 
tary for foreign affairs almost two years, you 
will allow that I must be some judge of the 

You have already heard what Mr. Deane's 
application to Congress was for. And as one of 
the public, under the well known signature of 
Common Sense^ I humbly conceive, that the 
Congress have done that which as a faithful body 
of representatives they ought to do, that is, they 
ordered an inquiry into the state of foreign 
affairs and accounts which Mr. Deane had been 
intrusted with, before they could, with justice to 
you, grant the request he asked. And this was 
the more necessary to be done, because Mr. 
Deane says he has left his papers and accounts 
behind him. Did ever any steward, when called 
upon to surrender up his stewardship, make such 
a weak and frivolous excuse? Mr. Deane saw 
himself not only recalled but superseded in his 
office by another person, and he could have no 
right to think he should return^ nor any pretense 
to come away without the necessary credentials. 

His friend and associate, and perhaps part- 
ner too, Mr. Plain Truth, says, that I have en- 
deavored in my address, to " throw out a sugges- 



tion that Mr. Deane is considered by Congress as 
a defaulter of public money." The gentlemen 
seem to wince before they are touched. I have 
nowhere said so, but this I will say, that his ac- 
counts are not satisfactory. Mr. Plain Truth 
endeavors to palliate what he cannot contradict, 
and with a seeming triumph assures the pubHc 
" that Mr. Deane not long after his arrival laid 
before Congress a general statement of the re- 
ceipts and expenditures of the monies which 
passed thro' his hands"; to which Mr. Plain 
Truth subjoins the following extraordinary 

"It is true the account was not accompanied 
with all the vouchers for the particular expendi- 
tures." And why not I ask? for without those it 
was no account at all ; it was what the sailors call 
a boot account, so much money gone and the 
Lord knows for what. Mr. Deane had secre- 
taries and clerks, and ought to have known better 
than to produce such an account to Congress, 
especially as his colleague Arthur Lee had de- 
clared in an office letter, which is in my posses- 
sion, that he had no concern in Mr. Deane's con- 

Neither does the excuse, which his whirligig 
friend Mr. Plain Truth makes for him, apply 


to his case ; this random shot gentleman, in order 
to bring him as easily off as possible, says, "that 
any person in the least conversant with business, 
knows the time which is requisite for calhng in 
manufacturers and tradesmen's bills, and prepare 
accounts and vouchers for a final settlement " ; 
and this he mentions because Mr. Deane received 
his order of recall the fourth of March, and left 
Paris the thirty-first: here is, however, four 
weeks within a day. I shall make three remarks 
upon this curious excuse. 

First, it is contradictory. Mr. Deane could 
not obtain the total or general expenditure with- 
out having the particulars, therefore he must be 
in the possession of the particulars. He surely 
did not pass away money without taking receipts, 
and what was due upon credit, he could only 
know from the bills delivered in. 

Secondly, Mr. Deane's contracts did not lay 
in the retail way, and therefore were easily col- 

Thirdly, The accounts which it was Mr. 
Deane's particular duty to settle, were those, 
which he contracted in the time of being only a 
comotnercial agent in 1776, before the arrival of 
Dr. Franklin and Arthur Lee, which separate 
agency of his expired upwards of fifteen months 

VIII-8 11 


before he left France — and surely that was time 
enough — and in which period of his agency, 
there happened an unexplained contract of about 
two hundred thousand pounds sterling. But 
more of this when I come to remark on the ridic- 
ulous puffs with which Mr. Plain Truth has set 
off Mr. Deane's pretended services in France. 
Mr. Deane has not only left the public papers 
and accounts behind him, but he has given no 
information to Congress, where or in whose 
hands they are ; he says in his address to you, that 
he has left them in a safe place, and this is all 
which is known of the matter. Does this look 
like business? Has it an open and candid or a 
mysterious and suspicious appearance? Or would 
it have been right in Congress to have granted 
Mr. Deane an audience of leave and departure in 
this embarrassed state of his affairs? And be- 
cause they have not, his ready written November 
address has been thrown out to abuse them and 
amuse you by directing you to another object; 
and myself, for endeavoring to unriddle confu- 
sion, have been loaded with reproach by his parti- 
sans and partners, and represented as a writer, 
who like an unprincipled lawyer had let himself 
out for pay. Charges which the propagators of 
them know to be false, because some, who have 


encouraged the report, are members of Congress 
themselves, and know my situation to be directly 
the reverse. 

But this I shall explain in the conclusion ; and 
I give the gentlemen notice of it, that if they can 
make out anything against me, or prove that I 
ever received a single farthing, public or private, 
for anything I ever wrote, they may convict me 
publicly, and if they do not, I hope they will be 
honest enough to take shame to themselves, for 
the falsehood they have supported. And I Hke- 
wise request that they would inform the public 
what my salary as secretary for foreign affairs is, 
otherwise I shall be obliged to do it myself. I 
shall not spare them and I beg they would not 
spare me. But to return — 

There is something in this concealment of 
papers that looks like an embezzlement. Mr. 
Deane came so privately from France, that he 
even concealed his departure from his colleague 
Arthur Lee, of which he complains by a letter in 
my office, and consequently the papers are not in 
his hands ; and had he left them with Dr. Frank- 
lin he would undoubtedly have taken the Doc- 
tor's receipt for them, and left nobody to 
"guess" at what Mr. Deane meant by a safe 
place. A man may leave his own private affairs 



in the hands of a friend, but the papers of a na- 
tion are of another nature, and ought never to be 
trusted with any person whatever out of the 
direct line of business. This I conceive to be 
another reason which justifies Congress in not 
granting Mr. Deane an audience of leave and 
departure till they are assured where those papers 

Mr. Deane might have been taken at sea, he 
might have died or been cast away on his pas- 
sage back from France, or he might have been 
settled there, as Madame D'Eon did in England, 
and quarreled afterwards as she did with the 
power that employed him. Many accidents 
might have happened by which those papers and 
accounts might have been totally lost, the secrets 
got into the hands of the enemy, and the possi- 
bihty of settling the expenditure of public money 
forever prevented. No apology can be made 
for Mr. Deane, as to the danger of the seas, or 
their being taken by the enemy, in his attempt 
to bring them over himself, because it ought al- 
ways to be remembered that he came in a fleet of 
twelve sail of the line. 

I shall now quit this part of the subject to 
take notice of a paragraph in Mr. Plain Teuth. 

In my piece to Mr. Deane I said, that his ad- 


dress was dated in November, without any day 
of the month, that on the last day of that month 
he applied to Congress, that on the first of De- 
cember the Congress resolved to investigate the 
state of their foreign affairs, of which Mr. Deane 
had notice, and that on the fourth he informed 
them of his receiving that notification and ex- 
pressed his thanks, yet that on the fifth he 
published his extraordinary address. 

Mr. Plain Truth^ in commenting upon this 
arrangement of facts has helped me to a new dis- 
covery. He says, that Mr. Deane's thanks of 
the fourth of December were only expressed to 
the president, Henry Laurens, Esq., for per- 
sonally informing him of the resolution and other 
attention to his affairs, and not^ as I had said, to 
Congress for the resolution itself. I give him 
credit for this, and believe it to be true; for my 
opinion of the matter is, that Mr. Deane's views 
were to get off without any inquiry, and that the 
resolution referred to was his great disappoint- 
ment. By all accounts which have been given 
both by Mr. Deane's friends and myself, we all 
agree in this, that Mr. Deane knew of the reso- 
lution of Congress before he published his ad- 
dress, and situated as he is he could not help 
knowing it two or three days before his address 



came out. Why then did he pubhsh it, s nee the 
very thing which he ought to have asked for, viz. 
an inquiry into his affairs, was ordered to be 
immediately gone into? 

I wish in this place to step for a moment from 
the floor of office, and press it on every state, to 
inquire what mercantile connections any of their 
late or present delegates have had or now have 
with Mr. Deane, and that a precedent might not 
be wanting, it is important that this State, Penn- 
sylvania, should begin. 

The uncommon fury which has been spread 
to support Mr. Deane cannot be altogether for 
his sake. Those who were the original propa- 
gators of it, are not remarkable for gratitude. 
If they excel in anything it is in the contrary 
principle and a selfish attachment to their own 
interest. It would suit their plan exceedingly 
well to have Mr. Deane appointed ambassador 
to Holland, because so situated, he would make a 
very convenient partner in trade, or a useful 

In order to rest Mr. Deane on the shoulders 
of the public, he has been set off with the most 
pompous puffs — the Savior of his Country — 
the Patriot of America — the True Friend of the 
Public — the Great Supporter of the cause in 


Europe — and a thousand other full-blown bub- 
bles, equally ridiculous and equally untrue. 
Never were the public more wretchedly imposed 
upon. An attempt was made to call a town 
meeting to return him thanks and to march in a 
body to Congress to demand justice for Mr. 
Deane. And this brings me to a part in Mr. 
Plain Truth's address to me, in which he 
speaks of Mr. Deane's services in France, and 
defies me to disprove them. 

If any late or present member of Congress 
has been concerned in writing that piece, I think 
it necessary to tell him, that he either knows very 
little of the state of foreign affairs, or ought to 
blush in thus attempting to rob a friendly nation, 
France, of her honors, to bestow them on a man 
who so little deserves them. 

Mr. Deane was sent to France in the spring, 
1776, as a commercial agent, under the author- 
ity of the committee which is now styled the 
Committee for Foreign Affairs. He had no 
commission of any kind from Congress; and his 
instructions were to assume no other character 
but that of a merchant; yet in this line of action 
Mr. Plain Truth has the ignorance to dub him 
a "public minister" and likewise says. 
That before the first of December, after his arrival he 



had formed and cultivated the esteem of a valuable 
political and commercial connection, not only in 
France but in other parts of Europe, laid the founda- 
tion of a public loan, procured thirty thousand stand 
of arms, thirty thousand suits of clothes, more than 
two hundred and fifty pieces of brass cannon, and a 
great amount of tents and mihtary stores, provided 
vessels to transport them, and in spite of various and 
almost inconceivable obstructions great part of these 
articles were shipped and arrived in America before the 
operations of the campaign in 1777. To which Mr. 
Plain Truth adds. That he has had the means of 
being acquainted with all these circumstances, avows 
them to be facts, and defies Common Sense or any 
other person to disprove them. 

Poor Mr. Plain Truth, and his avower Mr. 
Clarkson, have most unfortunately for them 
challenged the wrong person, and fallen into the 
right hands when they fell into mine, for without 
stirring a step from the room I am writing in, or 
asking a single question of any one, I have it in 
my power, not only to contradict but disprove it. 

It is, I confess, a nice point to touch upon, 
but the necessity of undeceiving the public with 
respect to Mr. Deane, and the right they have to 
know the early friendship of the French nation 
toward them at the time of their greatest wants, 
wiU justify my doing it. I feel likewise the less 
difficulty in it, because the whole affair respect- 
ing those supplies has been in the hands of the 


enemy at least twelve months, and consequently 
the necessity for concealing it is superseded: 
Besides which, the two nations, viz. France and 
England, being now come to an open rupture 
makes the secret unnecessary. 

It was immediately on the discovery of this 
affair by the enemy fifteen months ago, that the 
British INIinistry began to change their ground 
and planned what they called their Conciliatory 
Bills. They got possession of this secret by steal- 
ing the dispatches of October, 1777, which should 
have come over by Captain Folger, and this like- 
wise explains the controversy which the British 
commissioners carried on with Congress, in at- 
tempting to prove that England had planned 
what they called her Conciliatory Bills, before 
France moved toward a treaty; for even admit- 
ting that assertion to be true, the case is, that they 
planned those bills in consequence of the knowl- 
edge they had stolen.* 

* When Capt. Folger arrived at York Towti [Pa.] he delivered 
a packet which contained nothing but blank paper, that had been 
put under the cover of the dispatches which were taken out. This 
fraud was acted by the person to whom they were first intrusted 
to be brought to America, and who afterward absconded, having 
given by way of deception the blank packet to Capt. Folger. The 
Congress were by this means left without any information of 
European affairs. It happened that a private letter from Dr. 
Franklin to myself, in which he wrote to me respecting my under- 
taking the history of the present Revolution and engaged to fur- 
nish me with all his materials toward the completion of that work, 



The supplies here alluded to, are those which 
were sent from France in the Amphitrite, Seine 
and Mercury about two years ago. They had at 
first the appearance of a present, but whether so, 
or on credit, the service was nevertheless a great 
and friendly one, and though only part of them 
arrived the kindness is the same. A considerable 
time afterwards the same supplies appeared 
under the head of a charge amounting to about 
two hundred thousand pounds sterling, and it is 
the unexplained contract I alluded to when I 
spoke of the pompous puffs made use of to sup- 
port Mr. Deane. 

On the appearance of this charge the Con- 
gress were exceedingly embarrassed as to what 

escaped the pilfering by not being inclosed in the packet with 
the dispatches. I received this letter at Lancaster through the 
favor of the president, Henry Laurens, Esq., and as it was the 
only letter which contained any authentic intelligence of the gen- 
eral state of our afiFairs in France, I transmitted it again to him 
to be communicated to Congress. This likewise was the only 
intelligence which was received from France from May, 1777, 
to May 2, 1778, when the treaty arrived; wherefore, laying aside 
the point controverted by the British commissioners as to which 
moved first, France or England, it is evident that the resolutions 
of Congress of April 22, 1778, for totally rejecting the British 
bills, were grounded entirely on the determination of America to 
support her cause — a circumstance which gives the highest honor 
to the resolutions alluded to, and at the same time gives such 
a character of her fortitude as heightens her value, when con- 
sidered as an ally, which though it had at that time taken place, 
was, to her, perfectly unknown. 



line of conduct to pursue. To be insensible of a 
favor, which has before now been practised be- 
tween nations, would have implied a want of just 
conceptions; and to have refused it would have 
been a species of proud rusticity. To have asked 
the question was both difficult and awkward; to 
take no notice of it would have been insensibility 
itself; and to have seemed backward in payment, 
if they were to be paid for, would have impeached 
both the justice and the credit of America. 

In this state of difficulties such inquiries were 
made as were judged necessary, in order that 
Congress might know how to proceed. Still 
nothing satisfactory could be obtained. The an- 
swer which Mr. Deane signed so lately as Feb- 
ruary sixteenth last past (and who ought to know 
most of the matter, because the shipping the sup- 
plies was while he acted alone) is as ambiguous 
as the rest of his conduct. I wiU venture to give 
it, as there is no political secret in it and the mat- 
ter wants explanation. 

Hear that Mr. B[eaumarchais] has sent over a 
person to demand a large sum of you on account of 
arms, ammunition, etc., — think it will be best for you 
to leave that matter to be settled here (France), as 
there Is a mixture in it of public and private concern 
which you cannot so well develop. 

Why did not Mr. Deane complete the con- 



tract so as it might be developed, or at least state 
to Congress any difficulties that had arisen? 
When Mr. Deane had his two audiences with 
Congress in August last, he objected, or his 
friends for him, against his answering the ques- 
tions that might be asked him, and the ground 
upon which the objection was made, was, because 
a man could not legally be compelled to answer 
questions that might tend to criminate himself. — 
Yet this is the same Mr. Deane whose address 
you saw in the Pennsylvania Packet of Decem- 
ber fifth signed Silas Deane. 

Having thus shown the loose manner of Mr. 
Deane's doing business in France, which is ren- 
dered the more intricate by his leaving his papers 
behind, or his not producing them, I come now to 
inquire into what degree of merit or credit Mr. 
Deane is entitled to as to the procuring these 
supplies, either as a present or a purchase. 

Mr. Plain Truth has given him the whole. 
Mr. Plain Truth therefore knows nothing of 
the matter, or something worse. If Mr. Deane or 
any other gentleman will procure an order from 
Congress to inspect an account in my office, or 
any of Mr. Deane's friends in Congress will take 
the trouble of coming themselves, I will give him 
or them my attendance and show them in a hand- 


writing which ]VIr. Deane is well acquainted with, 
that the supplies, he so pompously plumes him- 
self upon, were promised and engaged, and that 
as a present, before he ever arrived in France, 
and the part that fell to JNIr. Deane was only to 
see it done, and how he has performed that serv- 
ice, the public are now acquainted with. The last 
paragraph in the account is, "^ Upon Mr. Deane*s 
arrival in France the business went into his hands 
and the aids were at length embarked in the Am- 
phitrite. Mercury and Seine" 

What will Mr. Deane or his aide de camp 
say to this, or what excuse will they make now? 
If they have met with any cutting truths from 
me, they must thank themselves for it. My ad- 
dress to IMr. Deane was not only moderate but 
civil, and he and his adherents had much better 
have submitted to it quietly, than provoked more 
material matter to appear against them. I had 
at that time all the facts in my hands which I 
have related since, or shall yet relate in my reply. 
The only thing I aimed at in the address, was, to 
give out just as much as might prevent the pub- 
lic from being so grossly imposed upon by them, 
and yet save Mr. Deane and his adherents from 
appearing too wretched and despicable. My 
fault was a misplaced tenderness, which they 



must now be fully sensible of, and the misfor- 
tune to them, is, that I have not yet done. 

Had Mr. Plain Teuth only informed the 
public that Mr. Deane had been industrious in 
promoting and forwarding the sending of sup- 
plies, his assertion would have passed uncontra- 
dicted by me, because I must naturally suppose 
that Mr. Deane would do no otherwise; but to 
give him the whole and sole honor of procuring 
them, and that, without yielding any part of the 
honor to the public spirit and good disposition 
of those who furnished them, and who likewise 
must in every shape have put up with the total 
loss of them had America been overpowered by 
her enemies, is, in my opinion, placing the repu- 
tation and affection of our allies not only in a 
disadvantageous, but in an unjust point of view, 
and concealing from the pubHc what they ought 
to know. 

Mr. Plain Truth declares that he knows all 
the circumstances, why then did he not place 
them in a proper line, and give the public a clear 
information how they arose? The proposal for 
sending over those supplies, appears to have been 
originally made by some public spirited gentle- 
man in France, before ever Mr. Deane arrived 
there, or was known or heard of in that country, 


and to have been communicated (personally by 
Mr. Beaumarchais, the gentleman mentioned in 
the letter signed J. L. which letter is given at 
length by Mr. Plain Truth) to Mr. Arthur Lee 
while resident in London about three years ago. 

From Mr. B's manner of expression, Mr. Lee 
understood the supplies to be a present, and has 
signified it in that light. It is very easy to see 
that if America had miscarried, they must have 
been a present, which probably adds explanation 
to the matter. But Mr. Deane is spoken of by 
Mr. Plain Truth^ as having an importance of 
his owfij and procuring those supplies through 
that importance; whereas he could only rise and 
fall with the country that empowered him to act, 
and be in or out of credit, as to money matters, 
from the same cause and in the same proportion ; 
and everybody must suppose, that there were 
greater and more original wheels at work than he 
was capable of setting in motion. Exclusive 
of the matter being begun before Mr. Deane's ar- 
rival, Mr. Plain Truth has given him the whole 
merit of every part of the transaction. 

America and France are wholly left out of 
the question, the former as to her growing im- 
portance and credit, from which all Mr. Deane's 
consequence was derived and the latter, as to her 



generosity in furnishing those supplies, at a time, 
when the risk of losing them appears to have been 
as great as our want of them. 

I have always understood thus much of the 
matter, that if we did not succeed no payment 
would be required, and I think myself fully en- 
titled to believe, and to publish my belief, that 
whether Mr. Deane had arrived in France or not, 
or any other gentleman in his stead, those same 
suppMes would have found their way to America. 
But as the nature of the contract has not been 
explained by any of Mr. Deane's letters and is 
left in obscurity by the account he signed the six- 
teenth of February last, which I have already 
quoted, therefore the full explanation must rest 
upon other authority. 

I have been the more explicit on this subject, 
not so much on Mr. Deane's account, as from a 
principle of public justice. It shows, in the first 
instance, that the greatness of the American 
cause drew, at its first beginning, the attention of 
Europe, and that the justness of it was such as 
appeared to merit support ; and in the second in- 
stance, that those who are now her allies, prefaced 
that alliance by an early and generous friend- 
ship ; yet, that we might not attribute too much to 
human or auxiliary aid, so unfortunate were 


those supplies, that only one ship out of the three 
arrived. The Mercury and Seine fell into the 
hands of the enemy. 

Mr. Deane, in his address, speaks of himself 
as "sacrificed for the aggrandizement of others" 
and promises to inform the public of '' what he 
has done and what he has suffered." What Mr. 
Deane means by being sacrificed the Lord knows, 
and what he has suffered is equally as mysterious. 
It was his good fortune to be situated in an ele- 
gant country and at a public charge, while we 
were driven about from pillar to post. He ap- 
pears to know but little of the hardships and 
losses which his countrymen underwent in the 
period of his fortunate absence. It fell not to his 
lot to turn out to a winter's campaign, and sleep 
without tent or blanket. He returned to Amer- 
ica when the danger was over, and has since that 
time suffered no personal hardship. What then 
are Mr. Deane's sufferings and what the sacri- 
fices he complains of? Has he lost money in the 
public service? I believe not. Has he got any? 
That I cannot tell. I can assure him that I have 
not, and he, if he pleases, may make the same 

Surely the Congress might recall Mr. Deane 
if they thought proper, v^dthout an insinuated 

VIII-4 27 


charge of injustice for so doing. The authority 
of America must be little indeed when she cannot 
change a commissioner without being insulted 
by him. And I conceive Mr. Deane as speaking 
in the most disrespectful language of the Au- 
thority of America when he says in his address, 
that in December 1776 he was "honored with one 
colleague, and saddled with another." Was Mr. 
Deane to dictate who should be commissioner, and 
who should not? It was time, however, to saddle 
him, as he calls it, with somebody, as I shall show 
before I conclude. 

When we have elected our representatives, 
either in Congress or in the Assembly, it is for 
our own good that we support them in the execu- 
tion of that authority they derive from us. If 
Congress is to be abused by everyone whom they 
may appoint or remove, there is an end to all use- 
ful delegation of power, and the public accounts 
in the hands of individuals will never be settled. 
There has, I believe, been too much of this work 
practised already, and it is time that the public 
should now make those matters a point of con- 
sideration. But who will begin the disagreeable 

I look on the independence of America to be 
as firmly established as that of any country which 


is at war. Length of time is no guarantee when 
arms are to decide the fate of a nation. Hitherto 
our whole anxiety has been absorbed in the means 
for supporting our independence, and we have 
paid but little attention to the expenditure of 
money ; yet we see it daily depreciating, and how 
should it be otherwise when so few public ac- 
counts are settled, and new emissions continually 
going on? — I will venture to mention one circum- 
stance which I hope will be sufficient to awaken 
the attention of the public to this subject. In 
October, 1777, some books of the Commercial 
Committee, in which, among other things, were 
kept the accounts of Mr. Thomas Morris, ap- 
pointed a conMnercial agent in France, were by 
Mr. Robert ^Morris's request taken into his pos- 
session to be settled, he having obtained from the 
Council of this State six months' leave of ab- 
sence from Congress to settle his affairs. 

In February following those books were 
called for by Congress, but not being completed 
were not delivered. In September, 1778, Mr. 
Morris returned them to Congress, in, or nearly 
in, the same unsettled state he took them, M^hich, 
with the death of Mr. Thomas Morris, may prob- 
ably involve those accounts in further embarrass- 
ment. The amount of expenditure on those 



books is considerably above two millions of dol- 

I now quit this subject to take notice of a 
paragraph in Mr. Plain Truth^ relative to my- 
self. It never fell to my lot to have to do with a 
more illiberal set of men than those of Mr. 
Deane's advocates who were concerned in writing 
that piece. They have neither wit, manners nor 
honesty; an instance of which I shall now pro- 
duce. In speaking of Mr. Deane's contracts with 
individuals in France I said in my address "We 
are all fully sensible, that the gentlemen who 
have come from France since the arrival of Dr. 
Franklin and Mr. Lee in that country are of a 

* There is an article in the Constitution of this State, which, 
were it at this time introduced as a Continental regulation, might 
be of infinite service; I mean a Council of Censors to inspect into 
the expenditure of public money and call defaulters to an account. 
It is, in my opinion, one of the best things in the Constitution, 
and that which the people ought never to give up, and whenever 
they do they will deserve to be cheated. It has not the most 
favorable look that those who are hoping to succeed to the gov- 
ernment of this State, by a change in the Constitution, are so 
anxious to get that article abolished. Let expenses be ever so 
great, only let them be fair and necessary, and no good citizen 
will grumble. 

Perhaps it may be said. Why do not the Congress do those 
things? To which I might, by another question reply, Why don't 
you support them when they attempt it? It is not quite so easy a 
matter to accomplish that point in Congress as perhaps many 
conceive; men will always find friends and connections among 
the body that appoints them, which will render all such inquiries 



different rank from the generality of those 
with whom Mr. Deane contracted when alone." 
These are the exact words I used in my address. 

Mr. Plain Truth has misquoted the above 
paragraph into his piece, and that in a manner, 
which shows him to be a man of httle reading and 
less principle. The method in which he has 
quoted it is as follows: "All are fully sensible 
that the gentlemen who came from France since 
the arrival of Dr. Franklin and Mr. Lee in that 
country, are of a diff'erent rank from those 
with whom ISlr. Deane contracted when acting 
separately." Thus by leaving out the words 
"the generality of" Mr. Plain Truth has al- 
tered the sense of my expression, so as to suit a 
most malicious purpose in his own, which could be 
no other, than that of embroiling me with the 
French gentlemen that have remained ; whereas it 
is evident, that my mode of expression was in- 
tended to do justice to such characters as Fleury 
and Touzard, by making a distinction they are 
clearly entitled to. 

Mr. Plain Truth not content with unjustly 
subjecting me to the misconceptions of those gen- 
tlemen, with whom even explanation was difficult 
on account of the language, but in addition to his 
injustice, endeavored to provoke them to it by 



calling on them, and reminding them that they 
were the "Guardians of their own honor." And 
I have reason to believe, that either Mr. Plain 
Teuth or some of the party did not even stop 
here, but went so far as personally to excite 
them on. Mr. Fleury came to my lodgings and 
complained that I had done him great injustice, 
but that he was sure I did not intend it, because 
he was certain that I knew him better. He con- 
fessed to me that he was pointed at and told that 
I meant him, and he withal desired, that as I 
knew his services and character, that I would put 
the matter right in the next paper. I endeavored 
to explain to him that the mistake was not mine, 
and we parted. 

I do not remember that in the course of my 
reading I ever met with a more illiberal and 
mahcious mis-quotation, and the more so when 
all the circumstances are taken with it. Yet this 
same Mr. Plain Truth^ whom nobody knows, 
has the impertinence to give himself out to be a 
man of "education" and to inform the public that 
"he is not a writer from inclination, much less by 
profession" to which he might safely have added, 
still less by capacity j and least of all by principle. 
As Mr. Clarkson has undertaken to avow the 
piece signed Plain Truth^ I shall therefore con- 


sider him as legally accountable for the apparent 
mahcious intention of this mis-quotation, and he 
may get whom he pleases to speak or write a de- 
fense of him. 

I conceive that the general distinction I re- 
ferred to between those with whom Mr. Deane 
contracted when alone, and those who have come 
from France since the arrival of Dr. Franklin 
and Mr. Lee in that country, is sufficiently war- 
ranted. That gallant and amiable officer and 
volunteer the Marquis de la Fayette, and some 
others whom Mr. Plain Truth mentions, did 
not come from France till after the arrival of the 
additional commissioners, and proves my asser- 
tion to be true. 

My remark is confined to the many and un- 
necessary ones with which Mr. Deane burdened 
and distracted the army. If he acquired any part 
of his popularity in France by this means he 
made the continent pay smartly for it. Many 
thousand pounds it cost America, and that in 
money totally sunk, on account of Mr. Deane's 
injudicious contracts, and what renders it the 
more unpardonable is, that by the instructions he 
took with him, he was restricted from making 
them, and consequently by having no authority 
had an easy answer to give to solicitations. It 



was Dr. Franklin's answer as soon as he ar- 
rived and might have been Mr. Deane's. Gen- 
tlemen of science or hterature or conversant with 
the polite or useful arts, will, I presume, always 
find a welcome reception in America, at least with 
persons of a hberal cast, and with the bulk of the 

In speaking of Mr. Deane's contracts with 
foreign officers, I concealed out of pity to him a 
circumstance that must have sufficiently shown 
the necessitj^ of recalling him, and, either his 
great want of judgment, or the danger of trust- 
ing him with discretionary power. It is no less 
than that of his throwing out a proposal, in one 
of his last foreign letters, for contracting with a 
German prince to command the American Army. 
For my own part I was no ways surprised when 
I read it, though I presume almost everybody 
else will be so when they hear it, and I think 
when he got to this length, it was time to saddle 

Mr. Deane was directed by the committee 
which employed him to engage four able en- 
gineers in France, and beyond this he had neither 
authority nor commission. But disregarding his 
instructions (a fault criminal in a negotiator) 
he proceeded through the several degrees of 


subalterns, to captains, majors, lieutenant-col- 
onels, colonels, brigadier-generals and at last 
to major-generals; he fixed their rank, regulated 
their command, and on some, I beheve, he be- 
stowed a pension. At this stage, I set him down 
for a commander-in-chief, and his next letter 
proved me prophetic. Mr. Plain Truth^ in the 
course of his numerous encomiums on Mr. Deane, 
says, that — 

The letter of the Count de Vergennes, written by 
order of his Most Christian Majesty to Congress, 
speaking of Mr. Deane in the most honorable manner, 
and the letter from that Minister in his own character, 
written not In the language of a courtier, but In that of 
a person who felt what he expressed, would be sufficient 
to counterbalance, not only the opinions of the writer 
of the address to Mr. Deane, but even of characters of 
more influence, who may vainly endeavor to circulate 
notions of his insignificancy and unfitness for a public 

The supreme authority of one country, how- 
ever different may be its mode, will ever pay a 
just regard to that of another, more especially 
when in alliance. But those letters can extend 
no further than to such parts of Mr. Deane's 
conduct as came under the immediate notice of 
the Court as a public minister or a political agent ; 
and cannot be supposed to interfere with such 
other parts as might be disapproved in him here 



as a contractor or a commercial agent, and can 
in no place be applied as an extenuation of any 
imprudence of his either there or since his return; 
besides which, letters of this kind, are as much 
intended to compliment the power that employs, 
as the person employed; and upon the whole, I 
fear Mr. Deane has presumed too much upon the 
polite friendship of that nation, and engrossed to 
himself, a regard, that was partly intended to 
express, through him, an affection to the con- 

Mr. Deane should likewise recollect that the 
early appearance of any gentleman from Amer- 
ica, was a circumstance, so agreeable to the 
nation he had the honor of appearing at, that he 
must have managed unwisely indeed to have 
avoided popularity. For as the poet says. 

Fame then was cheap, and the first comers sped. 

The last Hne of the couplet is not applicable. 

Which they have since preserved by being dead. 

From the pathetic manner in which Mr. 
Deane speaks of his "sufferings" and the little 
concern he seems to have of ours, it may not be 
improper to inform him, that there is kept in this 
city a "Booh of Sufferings" into which, by the 
assistance of some of his connections, he may 


probably get them registered. I have not interest 
enough myself to afford him any service in this 
particular, though I am a friend to all rehgions, 
and no personal enemy to those who may, in this 
place, suppose themselves alluded to. 

I can likewise explain to Mr. Deane, the rea- 
son of one of his sufferings which I know he 
has complained of. After the Declaration of In- 
dependence was passed, ^Ir. Deane thought it a 
great hardship that he was not authorized to an- 
nounce it in form to the Court of France, and this 
circumstance has been mentioned as a seeming in- 
attention in Congress. The reason of it was this, 
and I mention it from my own knowledge. 

Mr. Deane was at that time only a commer- 
cial agent, without any commission from Con- 
gress, and consequently could not appear at 
Court with the rank suitable to the formality of 
such an occasion. A new commission was there- 
fore necessar}^ to be issued by Congress, and that 
honor was purposely reserved for Dr. Frank- 
lin, whose long services in the world, and estab- 
lished reputation in Europe, rendered him the 
fittest person in America to execute such a great 
and original design ; and it was likewise paying a 
just attention to the honor of France by send- 



Ing so able and extraordinary a character to an- 
nounce the Declaration. 

Mr. Plain Truth^ who sticks at nothing to 
carry Mr. Deane through everything, thick or 
thin, says: 

It may not be improper to remark that when he 
(Mr. Deane) arrived in France, the opinion of people 
there, and in the different parts of Europe, not only 
with respect to the merits, but the probable issue of 
the contest, had by no means acquired that consistency 
which they had at the time of Dr. Franklin's and Mr. 
Arthur Lee's arrival in that kingdom. 

Mr. Plain Truth is not a bad historian. For 
it was the fate of Dr. Franklin and Mr. Lee to 
arrive in France at the very worst of times. Their 
first appearance there was followed by a long 
series of ill fortune on our side. Dr. Frank- 
lin went from America in October, 1776, at which 
time our affairs were taking a wrong turn. The 
loss on Long Island, and the evacuation of New 
York happened before he went, and all the suc- 
ceeding retreats and misfortunes through the 
course of that year, till the scale was again turned 
by taking the Hessians at Trenton on the twenty- 
sixth day of December, followed day by day 
after him. And I have been informed by a gen- 
tleman from France, that the philosophical ease 
and cheerful fortitude, with which Dr. Franklin 


heard of or announced those tidings, contributed 
greatly toward lessening the real weight of them 
on the minds of the Europeans. 

Mr. Deane speaking of himself in his address 
says, "While it was safe to be silent my lips were 
closed. Necessity hath opened them and neces- 
sity must excuse this effort to serve, by informing 
you." After which he goes on with his address. 
In this paragraph there is an insinuation thrown 
out by Mr. Deane that some treason was on foot, 
which he had happily discovered, and which his 
duty to his country compelled him to reveal. The 
public had a right to be alarmed, and the alarm 
was carefully kept by those who at first contrived 
it. Now, if after this, Mr. Deane has nothing to 
inform them of, he must sink into nothing. 
When a public man stakes his reputation in this 
manner, he likewise stakes all his future credit 
on the performance of his obligation. 

I am not writing to defend Mr. Arthur or 
Mr. Wilham Lee. I leave their conduct to de- 
fend itself; and I would with as much freedom 
make an attack on either of these gentlemen, if 
there was a public necessity for it, as on Mr. 
Deane. In my address I mentioned Colonel R. 
H. Lee with some testimony of honorable re- 
spect, because I am personally acquainted with 



that gentleman's integrity and abilities as a pub- 
lic man, and in the circle of my acquaintance I 
know but few that have equaled, and none that 
have exceeded him, particularly in his ardor to 
bring foreign affairs, and more especially the 
present happy alliance, to an issue. 

I heard it mentioned of this gentleman, that 
he was among those, whose impatience for vic- 
tory led them into some kind of discontent at the 
operations of last winter. The event has, I 
think, fully proved those gentlemen wrong, and 
must convince them of it; but I can see no rea- 
son why a misgrounded opinion, produced by an 
overheated anxiety for success, should be mixed 
up with other matters it has no concern with. A 
man's political abilities may be exceedingly good, 
though at the same time he may differ, and even 
be wrong, in his notions of some mihtary par- 

Mr. Deane says that Mr. Arthur Lee was 
dragged into a treaty with the utmost reluc- 
tance, a charge which if he cannot support, he 
must expect to answer for. I am acquainted that 
Mr. Lee had some objection against the con- 
structions of a particular article [12th], which, I 
think, shows his judgment, and whenever they 
can be known will do him honor; but his general 


opinion of that valuable transaction I shall give 
in his own words from a letter in my hands. 

France has done us substantial benefits, Great 
Britain substantial injuries. France offers to guar- 
antee our sovereignty, and universal freedom of com- 
merce. Great Britain condescends to accept our sub- 
mission and to monopolize our commerce. France de- 
mands of us to be independent, Great Britain, tributary. 
I do not conceive how there can be a mind so debased, or 
an understanding so perverted, as to balance between 

The journeys I have made North and South in the 
public service, have given me opportunities of knowing 
the general disposition of Europe on our question. 
There never was one in which the harmony of opinion 
was so universal. From the prince to the peasant there 
is but one voice, one wish, the Hberty of America and 
the humiliation of Great Britain. 

If Mr. Deane was industrious to spread re- 
ports to the injury of these gentlemen in Europe, 
as he has been in America, no wonder that their 
real characters have been misunderstood. The 
pecuhar talent which Mr. Deane possesses of at- 
tacking persons behind their backs, has so near a 
resemblance to the author of "Plain Truth," who 
after promising his name to the pubhc has de- 
clined to give it, and some other proceedings I am 
not unacquainted with, particularly an attempt 
to prevent my publications, that it looks as if one 
spirit of private malevolence governed the whole. 



Mr. Plain Truth has renewed the story of 
Dr. Berkenhout, to which I have but one reply to 
make: why did not Mr. Deane appear against 
him while he was here? He was the only person 
who knew anything of him, and his neglecting 
to give information, and thereby suffering a sus- 
picious person to escape for want of proof, is a 
story very much against Mr. Deane ; and his com- 
plaining after the man was gone corresponds with 
the rest of his conduct. 

When little circumstances are so easily dwelt 
upon, it is a sign, not only of the want of great 
ones, but of weakness and ill will. The crime 
against Mr. William Lee is, that some years ago 
he was elected an alderman of one of the wards 
in London, and the English calendar has yet 
printed him with the same title. Is that any 
fault of his? Or can he be made accountable 
for what the people of London may do? 

Let us distinguish between Whiggishness and 
waspishness, between patriotism and peevishness, 
otherwise we shall become the laughing stock of 
every sensible and candid mind. Suppose the 
Londoners should take it into their heads to elect 
the president of Congress or General Washing- 
ton an alderman, is that a reason why we should 
displace them? But Mr. Lee, say they, has not 


resigned. These men have no judgment, or they 
would not advance such positions. Mr. Lee has 
nothing to resign. He has vacated his alderman- 
ship by accepting an appointment under Con- 
gress, and can know nothing further of the mat- 
ter. Were he to make a formal resignation it 
would imply his being a subject of Great Brit- 
ain; besides which, the character of being an am- 
bassador from the States of America, is so supe- 
rior to that of any alderman of London, that I 
conceive Mr. Deane, or Mr. Plain Truth, or 
any other person, as doing a great injustice to the 
dignity of America by attempting to put the two 
in any disreputable competition. Let us be hon- 
est lest we be despised, and generous lest we be 
laughed at. 

Mr. Deane in his address of the fifth of De- 
cember, says, "having thus introduced you to your 
great servants, I now proceed to make you ac- 
quainted with some other personages, which it 
may be of consequence for you to know. I am 
sorry to say, that Arthur Lee, Esq., was sus- 
pected by some of the best friends you had 
abroad, and those in important characters and 
stations." To which I reply, that I firmly be- 
lieve Mr. Deane will likewise be sorry he has said 
it. INIr. Deane after thus advancing a charge 

VIII-5 43 


endeavors to palliate it by saying, "these sus- 
picions, whether well or ill founded, were fre- 
quently urged to Dr. Franklin and myself." But 
Mr. Deane ought to have been certain that they 
were well founded, before he made such a pub- 
lication, for if they are not well founded he must 
appear with great discredit, and it is now his 
duty to accuse Mr. Arthur Lee legally, and 
support the accusation with sufficient proofs. 

Characters are tender and valuable things; 
they are more than life to a man of sensibiUty, 
and are not to be made the sport of interest, or 
the sacrifice of incendiary malice. Mr. Lee is an 
absent gentleman, I believe, too, an honest one, 
and my motive for publishing this, is not to 
gratify any party, or any person, but as an act 
of social duty which one man owes to another, 
and which, I hope, will be done to me whenever 
I shall be accused ungenerously behind my back. 

Mr. Lee to my knowledge has far excelled 
Mr. Deane in the usefulness of his information, 
respecting the political and military designs of 
the Court of London. While in London he con- 
veyed intelligence that was dangerous to his per- 
sonal safety. Many will remember the instance 
of the rifleman who had been carried prisoner 
to England alone three years ago, and who after- 


wards returned from thence to America, and 
brought with him a letter concealed in a button. 
That letter was from this gentleman, and the 
public will, I believe, conclude, that the hazard 
Mr. Lee exposed himself to, in giving informa- 
tion while so situated, and by such means, deserves 
their regard and thanks. 

The detail of the number of the foreign and 
British troops for the campaign of 1776, came 
first from him, as did likewise the expedition 
against South Carolina and Canada, and among 
other accounts of his, that the English emissaries 
at Paris had boasted that the British Ministry 
had sent over half a million of guineas to corrupt 
the Congress. This money, should they be fools 
enough to send it, will be very ineffectually at- 
tempted or bestowed, for repeated instances have 
shown that the moment any man steps aside from 
the public interest of America, he becomes de- 
spised, and if in office, superseded. 

Mr. Deane says, "that Dr. Berkenhout, when 
he returned to New York, ventured to assure the 
British commissioners, that by the alliance with 
France, America was at liberty to make peace 
without consulting her ally, unless England de- 
clared war." What is it to us what Dr. Berken- 
hout said, or how came Mr. Deane to know 



what passed between him and the British com- 
missioners? But I ask Mr. Deane's pardon, he 
has told us how. "Providence, (says he) in whom 
we put our trust, unfolded it to me." But Mr. 
Deane says, that Colonel R. H. Lee, pertina- 
ciously maintained the same doctrine. 

The treaty of alliance will neither admit of 
debate nor any equivocal explanation. Had war 
not broke out, or had not Great Britain, in re- 
sentment to that alliance or connection, and of 
the good correspondence which is the object of the 
said treaty, broke the peace with France, either 
by direct hostilities or by hindering her commerce 
and navigation in a manner contrary to the rights 
of nations, and the peace subsisting at that time, 
between the two Crowns — in this case I likewise 
say, that America, as a matter of right, could 
have made a peace without consulting her ally, 
though the civil obligations of mutual esteem and 
friendship would have required such a consulta- 

But war has broke out, though not declared, 
for the first article in the treaty of alliance is 
confined to the breaking out of war, and not to 
its declaration. Hostilities have been com- 
menced ; therefore the first case is superseded, and 
the eighth article of the treaty of alliance has its 


full intentional force: ''Article 8. — Neither of 
the two parties shall conclude either truce or 
peace without the formal consent of the other 
first obtained, and they mutually engage not to 
lay down their arms until the independence of the 
United States shall have been formally or tacitly 
assured, by the treaty or treaties that shall ter- 
minate that war." 

What Mr. Deane means by this affected ap- 
pearance of his, both personally and in print, I 
am quite at a loss to understand. He seems to 
conduct himself here in a style, that would more 
properly become the secretary to a foreign em- 
bassy, than that of an American minister re- 
turned from his charge. He appears to be 
everybody's servant but ours, and for that reason 
can never be the proper person to execute any 
commission, or possess our confidence. Among 
the number of his "sufferings" I am told that he 
returned burdened with forty changes of silk, 
velvet, and other dresses. Perhaps this was the 
reason he could not bring his papers. 

Mr. Deane says, that William Lee, Esq., gives 
five per cent commission and receives a share of 
it, for what was formerly done for two per cent. 
The matter requires to be cleared up and ex- 
plained; for it is not the quantity per cent, but 



the purposes to which it is applied that makes it 
right or wrong; besides which, the whole matter, 
like many other of Mr. Deane's charges, may be 

I here take my leave of this gentleman, wish- 
ing him more discretion, candor and generosity. 

In the beginning of this address I informed 
the pubhc, that " whatever I should conceive 
necessary to say of myself, would appear in the 
conclusion." I chose that mode of arrangement, 
lest by explaining my own situation first, the 
public might be induced to pay a greater regard 
to what I had to say against Mr. Deane, than 
was necessary they should; whereas it was my 
wish to give Mr. Deane every advantage, by let- 
ting what I had to advance come from me, while 
I laid under the disadvantage of having the 
motives of my conduct mistaken by the public. 
Mr. Deane and his adherents have apparently 
deserted the field they first took possession of 
and seemed to triumph in. They made their ap- 
peal to you, yet have suffered me to accuse and 
expose them for almost three weeks past, with- 
out a denial or a reply. 

I do not blame the public for censuring me 
while they, though wrongfully, supposed I de- 
served it. When they see their mistake, I have 


no doubt, but they will honor me with that regard 
of theirs which I before enjoyed. And consider- 
ing how much I have been misrepresented, I hope 
it will not now appear ostentatious in me, if I set 
forth what has been my conduct, ever since the 
first publication of the pamphlet "Common 
Sense" down to this day, on which, and on account 
of my reply to Mr. Deane, and in order to import 
the liberty of the press, and my right as a free- 
man, I have been obliged to resign my office of 
secretary for foreign affairs, which I held under 
Congress. But this, in order to be complete, will 
be published in the "Crisis" VIII, of which 
notice will be given in the papers. 

Common Sense. 
Philadelphia, January 8, 1779, 


JANUARY 14, 1779 


O IR: My anxiety for your personal safety has 
^^ not only fixed a profound silence upon me, 
but prevents my asking you a great many ques- 
tions, lest I should be the unwilling, unfortunate 
cause of new diificulties or fatal consequences to 
you, and in such a case I might indeed say, " 'T is 
the survivor dies/* 

I omitted sending the inclosed in the morning 
as I intended. It will serve you to parry ill 
nature and ingratitude with, when undeserved 
reflections are cast upon me. 

I certainly have some awkward natural feel- 
ing, which I never shall get rid of. I was sen- 
sible of a kind of shame at the Minister's door 
to-day, lest anyone should think I was going 
to solicit a pardon or a pension. When I come 
to you I feel only an unwillingness to be seen, on 
your account. I shall never make a courtier, I 
see that. 

I am your obedient humble servant, 

Thomas Paine. 

January 14, 1779. 


Sir: — For your amusement I give you a 
short history of my conduct since I have been in 

I brought with me letters of introduction 
from Dr. Franklin. These letters were with a 
flying seal, that I might, if I thought proper, 
close them with a wafer. One was to Mr. Bache 
of this city. The terms of Dr. Franklin's recom- 
mendation were " a worthy, ingenious, etc." My 
particular design was to establish an academy 
on the plan they are conducted in and about 
London, which I was well acquainted with. I 
came some months before Dr. Franklin, and 
waited here for his arrival. In the meantime a 
person of this city desired me to give him some 
assistance in conducting a magazine, which I did 
without making any bargain. The work turned 
out very profitable. Dr. Witherspoon had like- 
wise a concern [in] it. At the end of six months 
I thought it necessary to come to some contract. 
I agreed to leave the matters to arbitration. The 
bookseller mentioned two on his own part — Mr. 
Duche, your late chaplain, and Mr. Hopkinson. 
I agreed to them and declined mentioning any 
on my part. But the bookseller getting infor- 
mation of what Mr. Duche's private opinion was, 
withdrew from the arbitration, or rather refused 



to go into it, as our agreement to abide by it was 
only verbal. I was requested by several literary 
gentlemen in this city to undertake such a work 
on my own account, and I could have rendered it 
very profitable. 

As I always had a taste to science, I naturally 
had friends of that cast in England ; and among 
the rest George Lewis Scott, Esq., through whose 
formal introduction my first acquaintance with 
Dr. Frankhn commenced. I esteem Mr. Scott 
as one of the most amiable characters I know of, 
but his particular situation had been, that in the 
minority of the present King he was his sub-pre- 
ceptor, and from the occasional traditionary ac- 
counts yet remaining in the family of Mr. Scott, 
I obtained the true character of the present King 
from his childhood upward, and, you may natur- 
ally suppose, of the present Ministry. I saw the 
people of this country were all wrong, by an ill- 
placed confidence. 

After the breaking out of hostilities I was 
confident their design was a total conquest. I 
wrote to Mr. Scott in May, 1775, by Captain 
James Josiah, now in this city. I read the letter 
to him before I closed it. I used in it this free 
expression: "Surely the Ministry are all mad; 
they never will be able to conquer America." 


The reception which the last petition of Congress 
met with put it past a doubt that such was their 
design, on which I determined with myself to 
write the pamphlet "[Common] Sense." As I 
knew the time of the Parliament meeting, and 
had no doubt what sort of King's speech it 
would produce, my contrivance was to have the 
pamphlet come out just at the time the speech 
might arrive in America, and so fortunate was I 
in this cast of pohcy that both of them made 
their appearance in this city on the same day. 
The first edition was printed by Bell on the rec- 
ommendation of Dr. Rush. I gave him the 
pamphlet on the following conditions: That if 
any loss should arise I would pay it — and in 
order to make him industrious in circulating it, 
I gave him one-half the profits, if it should pro- 
duce any. I gave a written order to Colonel 
Joseph Dean and Captain Thomas Prior, both of 
this city, to receive the other half, and lay it out 
for mittens for the troops that were going to 
Quebec. I did this to do honor to the cause. 
Bell kept the whole, and abused me into the bar- 
gain. The price he set upon them was two 

I then enlarged the pamphlet with an appen- 
dix and an address to the Quakers, which made 



it one-third bigger than before, printed 6,000 at 
my own expense, 3,000 by B. Towne, 3,000 by 
Cist & Steyner, and delivered them ready stitched 
and fit for sale to Mr. Bradford at the Coffee- 
house; and though the work was thus increased, 
and consequently should have borne a higher 
price, yet, in order that it might produce the 
general service I wished, I confined Mr. Brad- 
ford to sell them at only one shilHng each, or ten- 
pence by the dozen, and to enable him to do this, 
with sufficient advantage to himself, I let him 
have the pamphlets at 8^d. Pennsylvania cur- 
rency each. 

The sum of 8%d. each was reserved to defray 
the expense of printing, paper, advertising, etc., 
and such as might be given away. The state of 
the account at present is that I am £39 lis. out 
of pocket, being the difference between what I 
have paid for printing, etc., and what I have re- 
ceived from Bradford. He has a sufficiency in 
his hands to balance with and clear me, which is 
all I aimed at, but by his unaccountable dila- 
toriness and unwillingness to settle accounts, I 
fear I shall be obliged to sustain a real loss 
exclusive of my trouble. 

I think the importance of that pamphlet was 
such that if it had not appeared, and that at the 


exact time it did, the Congress would not now 
have been sitting where they are. The light which 
that performance threw upon the subject gave a 
turn to the politics of America which enabled her 
to stand her ground. Independence followed in 
six months after it, although before it was pub- 
lished it was a dangerous doctrine to speak of, 
and that because it was not understood. 

In order to accommodate that pamphlet to 
every man's purchase and to do honor to the 
cause, I gave up the profits I was justly entitled 
to, which in this city only would at the usual 
price of books [have] produced me £1,000 at 
that time a day, besides what I might have made 
by extending it to other states. I gave permis- 
sion to the printers in other parts of this State 
[Pennsylvania] to print it on their own account. 
I believe the number of copies printed and sold 
in America was not short of 150,000 — and is the 
greatest sale that any performance ever had 
since the use of letters, — exclusive of the great 
run it had in England and Ireland. 

The doctrine of that book was opposed in the 
public newspapers under the signature of Cato, 
who, I believe, was Dr. Smith, and I was sent for 
from New York to reply to him, which I did, 
and happily with success. My letters are under 



the signature of The Forester. It was like- 
wise opposed in a pamphlet signed Plain 
TrutHj but the performance was too weak to do 
any hurt or deserve any answer. In July follow- 
ing the publication of "Common Sense" the As- 
sociators of this State marched to Amboy under 
the command of General Roberdeau. The com- 
mand was large, yet there was no allowance for 
a secretary. I offered my service voluntarily, 
only that my expenses should be paid, all the 
charges I put General Roberdeau to was $48; 
although he frequently pressed me to make free 
with his private assistance. After the Asso- 
ciators returned I went to Fort Lee, and con- 
tinued with General [Nathanael] Greene till the 

A few days after our army had crossed the 
Delaware on the eighth of December, 1776, I 
came to Philadelphia on public service, and, see- 
ing the deplorable and melancholy condition the 
people were in, afraid to speak and almost to 
think, the public presses stopped, and nothing in 
circulation but fears and falsehoods, I sat down, 
and in what I may call a passion of patriotism, 
wrote the first number of the "Crisis." It was 
published on the nineteenth of December, which 
was the very blackest of times, being before the 


taking of the Hessians at Trenton. I gave that 
piece to the printer gratis, and confined him to 
the price of two coppers, which was sufficient to 
defray his charge. 

I then published the second number, which 
being as large again as the first number, I gave 
it to him on the condition of his taking only four 
coppers each. It contained sixteen pages. 

I then published the third number, containing 
thirty-two pages, and gave it to the printer, con- 
fining him to ninepence. 

When the account of the battle of Brandy- 
wine got to this city, the people were again in a 
state of fear and dread. I immediately wrote the 
fourth number [of the "Crisis"]. It contained 
only four pages, and as there was no less money 
than the sixth of dollars in general circulation, 
which would have been too great a price, I 
ordered 4,000 to be printed at my own private 
charge and given away. 

The fifth number I gave Mr. Dunlap at Lan- 
caster. He, very much against my consent, set 
half a crown upon it ; he might have done it for a 
great deal less. The sixth and seventh numbers 
I gave in the papers. The seventh number 
would have made a pamphlet of twenty-four 



pages, and brought me in $3,000 or $4,000 in a 
very few days, at the price which it ought to have 

Moneys received since I have been in America : 

Salary for 17 months at 70 dollars 

per month 1,190 dollars 

For rations and occasional assist- 
ance at Fort Lee 141 ditto 

For defraying the expense of a 
journey from East Town round 
by Morris when secretary to the 
Indian Commission, and some 
other matters, about 140 or 145 
dollars 145 ditto 

Total of public money 1,476 

In the spring, 1776, some private gentleman, 
thinking that it was too hard that I should, after 
giving away my profits for a public good, be 
money out of pocket on account of some expense 
I was put to — sent me by the hands of Mr. 
Christopher Marshall 108 dollars. 

You have here. Sir, a faithful history of my 
services and my rewards. 



From the Pennsylvania Packet of 
September 14, 1779. 

Mr. Dunlap: 

TN your paper of August thirty-first was pub- 
-*- lished an extract of a letter from Paris, dated 
May the twenty-first, in which the writer, among 
other things, says: 

It is long since I felt in common with every other 
well-wisher to the cause of liberty and truth, the obli- 
gations I was under to the author of "Common Sense," 
for the able and unanswerable manner in which he has 
defended those principles. The same public motives, I 
am persuaded, induced him to address the public against 
Mr. Deane and his associates. The countenance and 
support which Deane has received is a melancholy pre- 
sage of the future. Vain, assuming, avaricious and 
unprincipled, he will stick at no crime to cover what 
he has committed and continue his career. 

The impunity with which Deane has traduced and 
calumniated Congress to their face, the indulgence and 
even countenance he has received, the acrimonious and 
uncandid spirit of a letter containing Mr. Paine's pub- 
lications which accompanied a resolve sent to Mr. 
Gerard, are matters of deep concern here to every 
friend to America. 

By way of explaining the particular letter 
referred to in the above, the following note was 

viii-Hj 59 


The letter here alluded to can be no other than 
that signed John Jay, dated January thirteenth, and 
published in Mr. Dunlap's paper of January sixteenth. 
It is very extraordinary that Mr. Jay should write such 
a letter, because it contains the same illiberal reflections 
which Congress, as a body, had rejected from their re- 
solve of January twelfth, as may be seen by anyone 
who will peruse the proceedings of January last. Con- 
gress has since declined to give countenance to Mr. Jay's 
letter; for tho' he had a public authority for writing a 
letter to Mr. Gerard, he had no authority for the reflec- 
tions he used; besides which, the letter would be per- 
fectly laughable were every circumstance known which 
happened at that particular time, and would likewise 
show how exceedingly delicate and cautious a President 
ought to be when he means to act officially in cases he is 
not suflBciently acquainted with. 

Every person will perceive that the note 
which explains the letter referred to, is not a part 
of the letter from Paris, but is added by an- 
other person; and Mr. Jay, or any other gentle- 
man, is welcome to know that the note is in my 
writing, and that the original letter from Paris 
is now in my possession. I had sufficient author- 
ity for the expressions used in the note. Mr. 
Jay did not lay his letter to Mr. Gerard before 
Congress previous to his sending it, and there- 
fore, tho' he had their order, he had not their ap- 
probation. They, it is true, ordered it to be pub- 
lished, but there is no vote for approving it, 
neither have they given it a place in their jour- 


nals, nor was it published in any more than one 
paper in this city (Benjamin Towne's), tho' 
there were at that time two others. 

Some time after Mr. Jay's letter appeared 
in the paper, I addressed another to Congress, 
complaining of the unjust liberty he had taken, 
and desired to know whether I was to consider 
the expressions used in his letter as containing 
their sentiments, at the same time informing 
them, that if they declined to prove what he had 
written, I should consider their silence as a dis- 
approbation of it. Congress chose to be silent; 
and consequently, have left Mr. Jay to father 
his own expressions. 

I took no other notice of Mr. Jay's letter at 
the time it was published, being fully persuaded 
that when any man recollected the part I had 
acted, not only at the first but in the worst of 
times, he could but look on Mr. Jay's letter to 
be groundless and ungrateful, and the more so, 
because if America had had no better friends 
than himself to bring about independence, I 
fully believe she would never have succeeded in 
it, and in all probability been a ruined, conquered 
and tributary country. 

Let any man look at the position America 
was in at the time I first took up the subject, and 



published "Common Sense," which was but a few 
months before the Declaration of Independence; 
an army of thirty thousand men coming out 
against her, besides those which were already 
here, and she without either an object or a sys- 
tem, fighting, she scarcely knew for what, and 
which, if she could have obtained, would have 
done her no good. She had not a day to spare 
in bringing about the only thing which could 
save her, a Revolution^ yet no one measure 
was taken to promote it, and many were used to 
prevent it; and had independence not been de- 
clared at the time it was, I cannot see any time 
in which it could have been declared, as the train 
of ill-successes which followed the affair of Long 
Island left no future opportunity. 

Had I been disposed to have made money, I 
undoubtedly had many opportunities for it. 
The single pamphlet, "Common Sense," would at 
that time of day, have produced a tolerable for- 
tune, had I only taken the same profits from the 
publication which all writers had ever done, 
because the sale was the most rapid and exten- 
sive of anything that was ever published in this 
country, or perhaps any other. Instead of 
which I reduced the price so low, that instead of 
(getting, I yet stand thirty-nine pounds eleven 


shillings out of pocket on Mr. Bradford's books, 
exclusive of my time and trouble, and I have 
acted the same disinterested part by every pub- 
lication I have made. I could have mentioned 
those things long ago, had I chosen, but I men- 
tion them now to make Mr. Jay feel his ingrati- 

In the Pennsylvania Packet of last Tuesday 
some person has republished Mr. Jay's letter, 
and Mr. Gerard's answer of the thirteenth and 
fourteenth January last, and though I was pa- 
tiently silent upon their first publication, I now 
think it necessary, since they are republished, to 
give some circumstances which ought to go with 

At the time the dispute arose, respecting Mr. 
Deane's affairs, I had a conference with Mr. 
Gerard at his own request, and some matters on 
that subject were freely talked over, which it is 
here unnecessary to mention. This was on the 
second of January. 

On the evening of the same day, or the next, 
Mr. Gerard, thro' the mediation of another gen- 
tleman, made me a very genteel and profitable 
offer. I felt at once the respect due to his 
friendship, and the difficulties which my accept- 
ance would subject me to. My whole credit was 



staked upon going through with Deane's affairs, 
and could I afterwards have written with the 
pen of an angel, on any subject whatever, it 
would have had no effect, had I failed in that or 
dechned proceeding in it. Mr. Deane's name 
was not mentioned at the time the offer was 
made, but from some conversation which passed 
at the time of the interview, I had sufficient rea- 
son to believe that some restraint had been laid 
on that subject. Besides which I have a natural, 
inflexible objection to anything which may be 
construed into a private pension, because a man 
after that is no longer truly free. 

My answer to the offer was precisely in these 
words — " Any service I can render to either of 
the countries in alliance, or to both, I ever have 
done and shall readily do, and Mr. Gerard's 
esteem will be the only recompense I shall de- 
sire." I particularly chose the word esteem be- 
cause it admitted no misunderstanding. ' 

On the fifth of January I published a con- 
tinuation of my remarks on Mr. Deane's affairs, 
and I have ever felt the highest respect for a 
nation which has in every stage of our affairs 
been our firm and invariable friend. I spoke of 
France under that general description. It is 
true I prosecuted the point against JNIr. Deane, 


but what was Mr. Deane to France, or to the 
Minister of France? 

On the appearance of this publication Mr. 
Gerard presented a Memorial to Congress re- 
specting some expressions used therein, and on 
the sixth and seventh I requested of Congress to 
be admitted to explain any passages which Mr. 
Gerard had referred to; but this request not be- 
ing complied with, I, on the eighth, sent in my 
resignations of the office of Secretary to the 
Committee of Foreign Affairs. 

In the evening I received an invitation to 
sup with a gentleman, and Mr. Gerard's offer 
was, by his own authority, again renewed with 
considerable additions of advantage. I gave the 
same answer as before. I was then told that Mr. 
Gerard was very ill, and desired to see me. I re- 
plied, " That as a matter was then depending in 
Congress upon a representation of Mr. Gerard 
against some parts of my publications, I thought 
it indelicate to wait on him till that was deter- 

In a few days after I received a second in^a- 
tation, and likew^ise a third, to sup at the same 
place, in both of which the same offer and the 
same invitation were renewed and the same an- 
swers on my part were given : But being repeat- 



edly pressed to make Mr. Gerard a visit, I en- 
gaged to do it the next morning at ten o'clock: 
but as I considered myself standing on a nice 
and critical ground, and lest my reputation 
should be afterward called in question, I judged 
it best to communicate the whole matter to an 
honorable friend before I went, which was on 
the fourteenth of January, the very day on which 
Mr. Gerard's answer to Mr. Jay's letter is dated. 

While with Mr. Gerard I avoided as much 
as possible every occasion that might give rise 
to the subject. Himself once or twice hinted at 
the publications and added that, " he hoped no 
more would be said on the subject," which I 
immediately waived by entering on the loss of 
the dispatches. I knew my own resolution re- 
specting the offer, had communicated that reso- 
lution to a friend, and did not wish to give the 
least pain to Mr. Gerard, by personally refusing 
that, which, from him might be friendship, but 
to me would have been the ruin of my credit. 
At a convenient opportunity I rose to take my 
leave, on which Mr. Gerard said " Mr. Paine, I 
have always had a great respect for you, and 
should be glad of some opportunity of showing 
you more solid marks of my friendship." 

I confess I felt myself hurt and exceedingly 


concerned that the injustice and indiscretion of 
a party in Congress should drive matters to such 
an extremity that one side or other must go to 
the bottom, and in its consequences embarrass 
those whom they had drawn in to support them. 
I am conscious that America had not in France 
a more strenuous friend than Mr. Gerard, and I 
sincerely wish he had found a way to avoid an 
affair which has been much trouble to him. As 
for Deane, I believe him to be a man who cares 
not who he involves to screen himself. He has 
forfeited all reputation in this country, first by 
promising to give an 'liistory of matters impor- 
tant for the people to know " and then not only 
failing to perform that promise, but neglecting 
to clear his own suspected reputation, though he 
is now on the spot and can any day demand an 
hearing of Congress, and call me before them 
for the truth of what I have pubHshed respecting 

Two days after my visit to Mr. Gerard, Mr. 
Jay's letter and the answer to it was published, 
and I would candidly ask any man how it is pos- 
sible to reconcile such letters to such offers both 
done at one and the same time, and whether I 
had not sufficient authority to say that Mr. Jay's 
letter would be truly laughable, were all the cir- 



cumstances known which happened at the time 
of his writing. 

Whoever published those letters in last Tues- 
day's paper, must be an idiot or worse. I had let 
them pass over without any other public notice 
than what was contained in the note of the pre- 
ceding week, but the republishing them was put- 
ting me to defiance, and forcing me either to 
submit to them afresh, or to give the circum- 
stances which accompanied them. Whoever will 
look back to last winter, must see I had my 
hands full, and that without any person giving 
the least assistance. 

It was first given out that I was paid by 
Congress for vindicating their reputation against 
Mr. Deane's charges, yet a majority in that 
House were every day pelting me for what 
I was doing. Then Mr. Gerard was unfortunate- 
ly brought in, and ]Mr. Jay's letter to him and 
his answer were published to effect some purpose 
or other. Yet ^Ir. Gerard was at the same time 
making the warmest professions of friendship 
to me, and proposing to take me into his confi- 
dence with very liberal offers. In short I had 
but one way to get thro', which was to keep 
close to the point and principle I set out upon, 
and that alone has rendered me successful. By 


making this my guide I have kept my ground, 
and I have yet ground to spare, for among other 
things I have authentic copies of the dispatches 
that were lost. 

I am certain no man set out with a warmer 
heart or a better disposition to render public ser- 
vice than myself, in everything which laid in my 
power. My first endeavor was to put the poli- 
tics of the country right, and to show the advan- 
tages as well as the necessity of independence: 
and until this was done, independence never 
could have succeeded. America did not at that 
time understand her own situation; and though 
the country was then full of writers, no one 
reached the mark ; neither did I abate in my ser- 
vice, when hmidreds were afterwards deserting 
her interests and thousands afraid to speak, for 
the first number of the "Crisis" was published in 
the blackest stage of affairs, six days before the 
taking of the Hessians at Trenton. 

When this State was distracted by parties on 
account of her Constitution, I endeavored in the 
most disinterested manner to bring it to a conclu- 
sion; and when Deane's impositions broke out, 
and threw the whole States into confusion, I 
readily took up the subject, for no one else un- 
derstood it, and the countrj'^ now see that I was 



right. And if Mr. Jay thinks he derives any 
credit from his letter to Mr. Gerard, he will find 
himself deceived, and that the ingratitude of the 
composition will be his reproach not mine. 

Common Sense. 




Photogravure from the Original Painting by Sir Joshua 

Reynolds presented to the Royal Academy 

of Arts, London 


From the Pennsylvania Gazette, 
June 30, 1779 

messieurs hall and sellers 

Gentlemen : 

A PIECE of very extraordinary complexion 
-^ ^ made it appearance in your last paper, 
under the signature of Americanus^ and what 
is equally as extraordinary, I have not yet met 
with one advocate in its favor. To write under 
the curse of universal reprobation is hard indeed, 
and proves that either the writer is too honest for 
the world he lives in, or the world, bad as it is, 
too honest for him to write in. 

Some time last winter a worthy member of 
the Assembly of this State put into my hands, 
with some expressions of surprise, a motion 
which he had copied from an original shown to 
him by another member, who intended to move it 
in the House. The purport of that, and the doc- 
trine of Americanus^ bear such strong resem- 
blance to each other that I make no hesitation in 
believing them both generated from the same 



parents. The intended motion, however, with- 
ered without being put, and Americanus^ by 
venturing into being, has exposed himself to a less 
tranquil exit. 

Whether Americanus sits in Congress or not, 
may be the subject of future inquiry; at present 
I shall content myself with making some stric- 
tures on what he advances. 

He takes it for granted that hints toward 
a negotiation for peace have been made to Con- 
gress, and that a debate has taken place in that 
House respecting the terms on which such a 
negotiation shall be opened. 

It is reported, says he, that Congress are still 
debating what the terms shall be, and that some men 
strenuously insist on such as others fear will not be 
agreed to, and as they apprehend may prevent any 
treaty at all, and such as our ally [France], by his 
treaties with us, is by no means bound to support us 
in demanding. 

AmericanuSj after running through a variety 
of introductory matter, comes at last to the 
point, and intimates, or rather informs, that the 
particular subject of debate in Congress has 
been respecting the fisheries on the Banks of 
Newfoundland, some insisting thereon as a mat- 
ter of right and urging it as a matter of absolute 
necessity, others doubting, or appearing to doubt 


whether we have any right at all, and indifferent 
whether the fisheries be claimed or not. Among 
the latter of which Americanus appears to be 

Either Americanus does not know how to 
make a bargain, or he has already made one, and 
his affectation of modesty is the dress of design. 
How, I ask, can Americanus^ or any other per- 
son, know what claims or proposals will be re- 
jected or what agreed to, till they be made, 
offered or demanded? To suppose a rejection 
is to invite it, and to publish our " apprehen- 
sions" as a reason for declining the claim, is en- 
couraging the enemy to fulfil the prediction. 
Americanus may think what he pleases, but for 
my own part, I hate a prophesier of ill-luck, be- 
cause the pride of being thought wise often car- 
ries him to the wrong side. 

That an inhabitant of America or a member 
of Congress should become an advocate for the 
exclusive right of Britain to the fisheries, and 
signify, as his opinion, that an American has not 
a right to fish in the American seas, is something 
very extraordinary. 

It is a question, says he, whether the subjects of 
these states had any other right to fishing than what 
tliey derived from their being subjects of Great Britain; 



and as it cannot he pretended that they were in the pos- 
session and enjoyment of the right either at the time 
of the Declaration of Independence or of signing the 
Treaties of Paris, nor that it was ever included in any 
one of the charters of the United States, it cannot be 
surprising that many, who judge a peace necessary for 
the happiness of these states, should be afraid of the 
consequences which may follow from making this an ul- 
timatum in a negotiation. 

I should be glad to know what ideas Ameri- 
CANUS affixes to the words peace and ijidepen- 
dence; they frequently occur in his publication, 
but he uses them in such a neutral manner, that 
they have neither energy nor signification. 
Peace, it is true, has a pleasant sound, but he has 
nibbled it round, like Dr. Franklin's description 
of a gingerbread cake, till scarcely enough is left 
to guess at the composition. To be at peace cer- 
tainly implies something more than barely a ces- 
sation of war. It is supposed to be accompanied 
with advantages adequate to the toils of obtain- 
ing it. It is a state of prosperity as well as 
safety, and of honor as well as rest. His inde- 
pendence, too, is made up of the same letters 
which compose the independence of other na- 
tions, but it has something so sickly and so con- 
sumptive in its constitution, so limping and lin- 
gering in its manner, that at best it is but in 


leading strings, and fit rather for the cradle than 
the cabinet. But to return to his argument : 

Americanus has placed aU his reasons the 
wrong M^ay, and drawn the contrary conclusions 
to what he ought to have done. He doubts the 
rights of the States to fish, because it is not men- 
tioned in any of the charters. Whereas, had it 
been mentioned, it might have been contended 
that the right in America was only derivative; 
and been given as an argument that the original 
right lay in Britain. Therefore the silence of 
the charters, added to the undisturbed practise 
of fishing, admit the right to exist in America 
naturally, and not by grant, and in Britain only 
consequentially ; for Britain did not possess the 
fisheries independent of America, but in conse- 
quence of her dominions in America. Her 
claiming territory here was her title deed to the 
fisheries, in the same manner that Spain claims 
Faulkland's Island, by possessing the Spanish 
continent; and therefore her right to those fish- 
eries was derived through America, and not the 
right of America through Britain. Wedded to 
the continent, she inherited its fortunes of islands 
and fisheries, but divorced therefrom, she ceases 
her pretensions. 

What Americanus means by saying, that it 
viii-7 75 


cannot be pretended we were in the possession 
and enjoyment of the right either at the time of 
the Declaration of Independence, or of signing 
the Treaty of Paris, I am at a loss to conceive; 
for the right being natural in America, and not 
derivative, could never cease, and though by the 
events of war she was at that time dispossessed 
of the immediate enjoyment, she could not be 
dispossessed of the right, and needed no other 
proofs of her title than custom and situation. 

Americanus has quoted the second and elev- 
enth articles of the Treaty of Paris, by way of 
showing that the right to the fisheries is not one 
of those rights which France has undertaken to 

To which I answer, that he may say the same 
by any particular right, because those articles de- 
scribe no particular rights, but are comprehen- 
sive of every right which appertains to sover- 
eignty, of which fishing in the American seas 
must to us be one. 

Will Americanus undertake to persuade, 
that it is not the interest of France to endeavor to 
secure to her ally a branch of trade which re- 
dounds to the mutual interest of both, and with- 
out which the alhance will lose half its worth? 
Were we to propose to surrender the right and 


practise of fishing to Britain, we might reason- 
ably conclude that France would object to such 
a surrender on our part, because it would not 
only render us a less valuable ally in point of 
commerce as well as power, but furnish the 
enemy of both with a new acquisition of naval 
strength; the sure and natural consequence of 
possessing the fisheries. 

Americanus admits the fisheries to be an 
" object of great consequence to the United 
States, to two or three of them more especially." 

Whatever is of consequence to any, is so to 
all; for wealth like water soon spreads over the 
surface, let the place of entrance be ever so re- 
mote; and in like manner, any portion of 
strength which is lost or gained to any one or 
more states, is lost or gained to the whole; but 
this is more particularly true of naval strength, 
because, when on the seas it acts immediately for 
the benefit of all, and the ease with which it trans- 
ports itself takes in the whole coast of America, 
as expeditiously as the land forces of any partic- 
ular state can be arranged for its own immediate 

But of all the States of America, New York 
ought to be the most anxious to secure the fish- 
eries as a nursery for a navy; — because the par- 



ticular situation of that State, on account of its 
deep waters, is such, that it will ever be exposed 
to the approaches of an enemy, unless it be de- 
fended by a navy ; and if any of the delegates of 
that State has acted a contrary part, he or they 
have either designedly or ignorantly betrayed 
the interest of their constituents, and deserve 
their severest censure. 

Through the whole of this curious and equiv- 
ocal piece, the premises and arguments have, in 
themselves, a suspicious appearance of being un- 
fairly if not unjustly stated, in order to admit 
of, and countenance, wrong conclusions ; for tak- 
ing it for granted that Congress have been de- 
bating upwards of four months what the terms 
shall be on which they shall open a negotiation, 
and that the House are divided respecting their 
opinion of those terms, it does not follow from 
thence that the "^ public have been deceived'' with 
regard to the news said to have arrived last Feb- 
ruary; and if they are deceived, the question is 
who deceived them? Neither do several other 
conclusions follow which he has attempted to 
draw, of which the two I shall now quote are 
sufficient instances. 

If, says Americanus, the inusting on terms which 
neither the Declaration of Independence nor the Treaties 



of Paris authorized us to challenge as our rights, have 
caused the late, otherwise unaccountable delays, and 
prevented a peace, or at least a negotiation being 
open for one, those who have challenged and in- 
sisted on these claims are justly responsible for tJie con- 

This I look on to be truly Jesuitical; for the 
delay cannot be occasioned by those who propose, 
but by those who oppose^ and therefore the con- 
struction should stand thus: 

If the objecting to rights and claims, which 
are neither inconsistent with the Declaration of 
Independence or the Treaties of Paris, and nat- 
urally included and understood in both, has 
caused the late, otherwise unaccountable delays, 
and prevented a peace, or at least a negotiation 
for one, those who made such objections, and 
thereby caused such delays and prevented such 
negotiations being gone into, are justly respon- 
sible for the consequences. 

His next position is of the same cast, and ad- 
mits of the same reversion. 

Governor Johnstone, says he, in the House of 
Commons freely declared he had made use, while in 
America, of other means to effect the purpose of his 
commission than those of reason and argument ; have 
we not, continues Americanus, good right from pres- 
ent appearances to believe that in this instance he de- 
clared the truth. 



To this wonderful supposition I shall apply 
another, viz. That if Governor Johnstone did 
declare the truth, who have we most right to sus- 
pectj those who are for relinquishing the fisheries 
to Britain, or those who are for retaining them? 

Upon the whole, I consider the fisheries of 
the utmost importance to America, and her nat- 
ural right thereto so clear and evident, that it 
does not admit of a debate, and to surrender 
them is a species of treason for which no punish- 
ment is too severe. 

I have not stepped out of my way to fetch in 
either an argument or a fact, but have confined 
my reply to the piece, without regard to who 
the author is, or whether any such debates have 
taken place or not, or how far it may or [may] 
not have been carried on one side or the other. 

Common Sense. 
Philadelphia, June 26, 1779, 



From the Pennsylvania Gazette. 
July 14, 1779 

A MERICANUS, in your last, has favored 
-^ ^ the public with a description of himself as 
a preface to his piece. "I am," says he, "neither 
a member of Congress or of the Assembly of this 
State, or of any other, but a private citizen, in 
moderate circumstances in point of fortune, and 
tcJiose political principles have never been ques- 
tioned/' All this may be very true, and yet 
nothing to the purpose ; neither can the declara- 
tion be admitted either as a positive or negative 
proof of what his principles are. They may be 
good, or they may not, and yet be so well known 
as not to be doubted by those who know the 

Joseph Galloway formerly wrote under the 
signature of Americanus^ and tho' every honest 
man condemns his principles, yet nobody pre- 
tends to question them. When a writer, and es- 
pecially an anonymous one, readily means to 
declare his political principles as a reinforcement 
to his arguments, he ought to be full, clear, and 



decisive, but this declaration is so ambiguously 
constructed and so unmeaningly applied, that it 
may be used by any and every person either 
within or without the enemy's lines, for it does 
not declare what his principles are, but that, be 
they what they may, they are not questioned. 

Before I proceed, I cannot help taking notice 
of another inconsistency in his publication of last 
week. " In my last," says he, " I said that it was 
very unhappy that this question has been touched 
on or agitated at all at this time, to which," con- 
tinues he, " I will now add, it is particularly so, 
that it is become a subject of discussion in the 
public 'papers." This is very extraordinary from 
the very man who first brought it into the public 

A short piece or two, on the importance of 
fisheries in general, were anonymously published 
some time ago; but as a matter of treaty debate 
in Congress, or as a matter of right in itself, with 
the arguments and grounds on which they pro- 
ceeded, Americanus is originally chargeable 
with the inconvenience he pretends to lament. I 
with some others had heard, or perhaps knew, 
that such a subject was in debate, and tho' I 
always laid myself out to give it a meeting in the 


papers whenever it should appear, I never hhited 
a thought that might tend to start it. 

" To permit the pubHc," says Americanus, 
"to be made acquainted with what are to be the 
ultimate demands in a proposed treaty is really 
something new and extraordinary, if not impo- 
litic and absurd." There is a compound of folly 
and arrogance in this declaration, which deserves 
to be severely censured. Had he said, that to 
publish all the arguments of Congress, on which 
any claim in a proposed treaty are founded or 
objected to, might be inconvenient and in some 
cases impolitic, he would have been nearly right ; 
but the ultimate demand itself ought to be made 
known, together with the rights and reasons on 
which that demand is founded. 

But who is this gentleman who undertakes to 
say, that to permit the public to be made ac- 
quainted is really impolitic and absurd? And to 
this question I will add, that if he distinguishes 
Congress into one body, and the pubHc into an- 
other, I should be glad to know in what situation 
he places himself, so as not to be subject to his 
own charge of absurdity. If he belongs to the 
former, he has, according to his own position, a 
right to know but not to tell, and if to the latter, 
he has neither a right to know nor to tell, and yet 



in some character or other he has done both. If 
this gentleman's political principles were never 
questioned before, I think they ought to be ques- 
tioned now ; for a man must be a strange charac- 
ter indeed, whom no known character can suit. 

I am the more inclined to suspect Ameri- 
CANUSj because he most illiberally, and in contra- 
diction to everything sensible and reasonable, en- 
deavored, in his former piece, to insinuate that 
Governor Johnstone had bribed a party in Con- 
gress to insist on the right of the United States 
to fish on the Banks of Newfoundland. An in- 
sinuation so impolitic and absurd, so wide and 
foreign to the purpose of Governor Johnstone's 
commission, can only be understood the contrary 
way; namely, that he had bribed somebody or 
other to insist that the right should not be in- 
sisted on. 

The expression of Governor Johnstone, as 
printed in the English papers, is literally this. 
" I do not," says he, " mean to disavow I have 
had transactions, where other means have been 
used besides persuasion." Governor Johnstone 
was in no places in America but Philadelphia 
and New York, and these other means must have 
been used in one or other, or both of these places. 
We have had evidence of one application of his, 


with an offer of ten thousand guineas, which 
was refused, and treated with the disdain it de- 
served; for the offer of a bribe contains in it, to 
all men of spirit, the substance of an affront. 
But it is strange indeed, if the one that was re- 
fused was the onli/ one that was offered. Let 
any person read Americanus in your paper of 
June twenty-third, and if he can after that accjuit 
him of all suspicion, he must be charitable indeed. 

But why does not Americanus declare who 
he is? This is no time for concealment, neither 
are the presses, tho' free, to become the vehicles 
of disguised poison. I have had my eye on that 
signature these two months past, and to what 
lengths the gentleman meant to go himself can 
best decide. 

In his first piece he loosely introduced his in- 
tended politics, and put himself in a situation to 
make further advances. His second was a rapid 
progress, and his last a retreat. The difference 
between the second and last is visible. In the 
former of those two he endeavors to invalidate 
the right of the United States to fish on the 
Banks of Newfoundland, because, forsooth, it 
was not mentioned in any of the former charters. 
It is very extraordinary that these same charters, 
which marked out and were the instruments of 



our dependence^ should now be introduced as de- 
scribing the line of our independence. 

In the same piece Americanus likewise says, 
"it is a question whether the subjects of these 
states had any other right to that fishery, than 
what they derived from being the subjects of 
Great Britain." If this be not advocating the 
cause of the enemy, I know not what is. It is 
newspaper advice to them to insist on an exclu- 
sive right to the fisheries, by insinuating ours to 
be only a derivative one from them; which, had 
it been the case, as it is not, would have been 
very improper doctrine to preach at the first in- 
stance of a negotiation. If they have any right, 
let them find those rights out themselves. We 
shall have enough to do to look to our own side 
of the question, and ought not to admit persons 
among us to join force with the enemy either in 
arms or argument. 

Whether Ameeicanus found himself ap- 
proaching a stormy latitude, and fearing for the 
safety of his bark, thought proper to tack about 
in time, or whether he has changed his appetite, 
and become an epicure in fish, or liis principles, 
and become an advocate for America, must be 
left for his own decision; but in his last week's 
publication he has surrendered the grounds of 


his former one, and changed the argument from 
a matter of right to a matter of supposed conven- 
ience only. He no more speaks of our right to 
the fisheries as a derivative right from Britain, 
in consequence of our formerly being subjects. 
Not a syllable of the charters, whose silence he 
had produced as invalidating or negativing our 
independent right. Neither has he endeavored 
to support, or offered to renew, what he had be- 
fore asserted — namely, that we were not in pos- 
session of the right of fishing at the time of the 
Declaration of Independence, or of the signing 
the Treaties of Paris; but he has admitted a 
theorem which I had advanced in opposition to 
his suggestions, and which no man can contra- 
dict, viz. that our right to fish on the banks of 
Newfoundland is a natural right. 

Now if our right is natural, it could not be 
derived from subjection, and as we never can but 
by our own voluntary consent be put out of the 
possession of a natural national right, tho' by the 
temporary events of war we may be put out of 
the enjoyment of such a right, and as the British 
Fishery Act of Parliament in Seventy-six to ex- 
clude us was no act of ours, and universally de- 
nied by us, therefore, from his own admission, he 
has contradicted himself, and allowed that we 



were as fully in possession of the right of fishing 
on those banks, both at the time of the Declara- 
tion of Independence, and at the time of signing 
the Treaties of Paris, as at any period preceding 

That he has admitted the natural right in his 
last piece, in contradiction to his supposed deriv- 
ative right in his former one, will appear from 
two or three quotations I shaU make. 

1st. He says, The giving up of our right to this 
object (the fisheries) and the making an express de- 
mand to have it guaranteed to us, or the passing it 
over in silence in negotiation, are distinct things. 

2d. I am well assured, he says, that there is 
not a member in Congress any ways disposed to give 
up or relinquish our right to the Newfoundland- 

The " right " here admitted cannot be a right 
derived from subjection, because we are no 
longer British subjects; neither can it be a right 
conveyed by charters, because we not only know 
no charters now, but those charters we used to 
know are silent on the matter in question. It 
must therefore be a natural right. Neither does 
the situation of America and Britain admit of 
any other explanation, because they are, with re- 
spect to each other, in a state of nature, not being 
even within the law of nations; for the law of 


nations is the law of treaties, compounded with 
customary usage, and between America and Brit- 
ain there is yet no treaty, nor any national custom 

But the third quotation I shall make from his 
last piece will prove, from his own words, his 
assent to the natural right which I contended for 
in behalf of these states, and which he, in his 
former piece, impliedly disowned, by putting our 
whole right on a question, and making our for- 
mer subjection the grounds on which that ques- 
tion stood. 

I drew no conclusion, he says, to exclude these 
states, or bar them from the right which hy nature they 
are entitled to with others, as well to the fishery on the 
Banks of Newfoundland as to those in the ocean at 

As he now admits a natural right , and ap- 
pears to contend for it, I ask, why then was his 
former piece published, and why was our right 
there put in the lowest terms possible? He does 
not in that piece even hint, or appear to think of, 
or suppose such a thing as a natural right, but 
stakes the issue on a question which does not ap- 
ply to the case, and went as far as a man dared to 
go, in saying we had no right at all. From all 
this twisting and turning, this advancing and 



retreating, and appearing to own at last what he 
impliedly disowned at first, I think myself justi- 
fied in drawing this conclusion, that either Amer- 
ICANUS does not know how to conduct an argu- 
ment, or he intended to be a traitor if he dared. 

The natural right of the United States in 
those fisheries is either whole or in part. If to 
the whole, she can admit a participation to other 
nations. If to a part, she, in consequence of her 
natural right to partake, claims her share therein, 
which is for as much as she can catch and carry 
away. Nature, in her distribution of favors, 
seems to have appointed these fisheries as a prop- 
erty to the northern division of America, from 
Florida upwards, and therefore our claim of an 
exclusive right seems to be rationally and con- 
sistently founded; but our natural right to what 
we can catch is clear, absolute and positive. 

Had Americanus intended no more than to 
consider our claim, whether it should be made or 
not, as a matter of convenience only, which is the 
stage he has now brought it to, he ought by no 
means to have made even the slightest stroke at 
the right itself; because to omit making the 
claim in the treaty, and to assign the doubtful- 
ness of the right as a reason for the omission, is 
to surrender the fisheries upon the insufficiency 


of the pretension, and of consequence to exclude 
ourselves from the practise by the silence of the 
treaty, and from the right by the reasons upon 

Had I time to laugh over my fisJi^ I could in 
this place set Americanus up to a very agreeable 
ridicule. He has all this while been angling 
without a bait, and endeavoring to deceive with 
an empty hook, and yet this man says he under- 
stands fishing as well as any man in America. 
" Very few," says he, " and I speak it without 
vanity^ are better acquainted with the fisheries 
than myself." If this be true, which I hope it is 
not, it is the best reason that can be given for re- 
linquishing them, and if made known would, on 
the other hand, be a great inducement to Britain 
to cede the whole right, because by our being 
possessed of a right without knowing how to use 
it, she would be under no apprehensions of our 
thimiing the ocean, and we should only go out 
with our vessels to buy, and not to catch. 

If Americanus wished to persuade the Amer- 
icans to say nothing about the fisheries in a treaty 
with Britain, he ought, as a politician of some 
kind or other, to have baited his hook with a 
plausible something, and, instead of telling them 
that their right was doubtful, he should have 

VIIl-8 ^I 


assured them it was indisputable, that Britain 
never meant to question it, that it was needless to 
say an3rthing about it, that all nations knew our 
rights, and naturally meant to acknowledge 
them. But he, like a wiseacre, has run against 
the post instead of running past it, and has, by 
the arguments he has used, produced a necessity 
for doing the very thing he was writing to pre- 
vent; and yet this man says he understands fish- 
ing as well as any man in America — It must be 
a cod indeed that should be catched by him. 

Common Sense. 
Philadelphia, July 12, 1779, 



From the Pennsylvania Gazette, 
July 21, 1779. 

'THHE importance of the fisheries, Ameri- 
-■- CANUS has kept almost totally out of sight. 
Why he has done so, his readers will contrive to 
guess at, or himself may explain. A bare confes- 
sion, loosely scattered here and there, and marked 
with the countenance of reluctance, is all he gives 
on the subject. Surely, the public might have ex- 
pected more from a man, who declares "he can, 
without vanity say, that very few are better ac- 
quainted with the nature and extent of the Amer- 
ican fisheries than himself." 

If he really possesses the knowledge he 
affirms, he ought to have been as prolific on the 
subject as the fish he was treating of: And as he 
has not, I am obliged to suspect either the reality 
of his knowledge, or the sincerity of his inten- 
tions. If the declaration be not true, there are 
enough to fix his title; and if true, it shows that a 
man may keep company all his life-time with 
cod, and be little wiser. But to the point — 

There are but two natural sources of wealth 



and strength — the earth and the ocean — and to 
lose the right to either is, in our situation, to put 
up the other to sale. Without the fisheries, inde- 
pendence would be a bubble. It would not de- 
serve the name ; and however we might, in such a 
condition, please ourselves with the jingle of a 
word, the consequences that would follow would 
soon deprive us even of the title and the music. 

I shall arrange the fisheries under the three 
following heads : 

First. As an emploj^ment. 

Secondly. As producing national supply 
and commerce, and a means of national wealth. 

Thirdly. As a nursery for seamen. 

As an employment, by which a living is pro- 
cured, it more immediately concerns those who 
make it their business; and in this view, which is 
the least of the three, such of the states, or parts 
thereof, which do not follow fishing, are not so 
directly interested as those which do. I call it 
the least of the three, because as no man needs 
want employment in America, so the change 
from one employment to another, if that be all, 
is but little to him, and less to anybody else. And 
this is the narrow, impolitic light in which some 
persons have understood the fisheries. 

But when we view them as producing national 


supply and commerce, and a means of national 
wealth, we then consider the fish, not the fisher- 
men, and regard the consequences of the employ- 
ment more than the employment itself; in the 
same manner that I distinguish the coat that 
clothes me, from the man that made it. In this 
view, we neither inquire (unless for curiosity) 
who catch the fish, or whether they catched 
themselves — how they were catched, or where? 
The same supply would be produced, the same 
commerce occasioned, and the same wealth cre- 
ated, were they, by a natural impulse, to throw 
themselves annually on the shore, or be driven 
there by a periodical current or storm. And tak- 
ing it in this point, it is no more to us, than it 
was to the Israelites whether the manna that fed 
them was brought there by an angel or an insect, 
an eastern or a western breeze, or whether it was 
congealed dew, or a concretion of vegetable 
juices. It is sufficient that they had manna, and 
we have fish. 

I imagine myself within compass, when I sup- 
pose the fisheries to constitute a fourth part of 
the staple commerce of the United States, and 
that with this extraordinary advantage, it is a 
commerce which interferes with none, and pro- 
motes others. Take away a fourth from any part 



and the whole United States suffers, in the same 
manner that the blood taken from the arm is 
drained from the whole man; and if, by the un- 
skilfulness of the operation, the wounded arm 
should lose its use, the whole body would want its 
service. It is to no purpose for a man to say, I 
am not a fisherman, an indigo planter, a rice 
planter, a tobacco planter, or a corn planter, any 
more than for the leg to say, I am not an arm; 
for as, in the latter instance the same blood in- 
vigorates both and all by circulation, so, in the 
former, each is enriched by the wealth which the 
other creates, and fed by the supply the other 

Were it proposed that no town should have a 
market, are none concerned therein but butchers? 

And in like manner it may be asked, that if 
we lose the market for fish, are none affected 
thereby but those who catch them? He who digs 
the mine, or tills the earth, or fishes in the ocean, 
digs, tills and fishes for the world. The employ- 
ment and the pittance it procures him are his ; but 
the produce itself creates a traffic for thousands, 
a supply for millions. 

The Eastern States by quitting agriculture 
for fishing become customers to the rest, partly 
by exchange and partly by the wealth they im- 


port. Of the IVIiddle States, they purchase grain 
and flour; of Maryland and Virginia, tobacco, 
the food and pastime of the fisherman ; of North 
and South Carolina, and Georgia, rice and in- 
digo. They may not happen to become the client 
of a lawyer in either of these states, but is it any 
reason that we are to be deprived of fish, one of 
the instruments of commerce, because it comes to 
him without a case? 

The loss of the fisheries being at this time 
blended with other losses, which all nations at war 
are more or less subject to, is not particularly felt 
or distinguished in the general suspension: And 
the men who were employed therein being now 
called off into other departments, and supported 
by other means, feel not the want of the employ- 
ment. War, in this view, contains a temporary 
relief for its own misfortunes, by creating a trade 
in lieu of the suspended one. But when, with 
the restoration of peace, trade shall open, the case 
will be very and widely different, and the fisher- 
man like the farmer will expect to return to his 
occupation in quietude. 

As my limits will not allow me to range, 
neither have I time if I had room, I shall close 
this second head, and proceed to the third, and 



finish with some remarks on the state the question 
is now said to stand in in Congress. 

If as an employment one fourth of the United 
States are immediately affected, and if as a 
source of national supply and commerce and a 
means of national wealth all are deeply interested, 
what shall we say when we consider it as a nur- 
sery for seamen? Here the question seems to 
take almost a reversed turn, for the states which 
do not fish are herein more concerned than those 
which do. It happens, hy some disposition of 
Providence or ourselves, that those particular 
states whose employment is to fish are thickly 
settled, and secured by their internal strength 
from any extensive ravages of an enemy. The 
states, all the way from thence to the southward, 
beginning at New York, are less populous, and 
have less of that ability in proportion to their 
extent. Their security, therefore, will hereafter 
be in a navy, and without a fishery there can 
be no navy worthy of the name. 

Has nature given us timber and iron, pitch 
and tar, and cordage if we please, for nothing but 
to sell or burn? Has experience taught us the 
art of ship-building equal to any people on earth 
to become the workmen of other nations? Has 
she surrounded our coast with fisheries to create 


strength to our enemies, and make us the pur- 
chasers of our own property? Has she brought 
those fisheries almost to our own doors, to insult 
us with the prospect, and at the same time that 
she bar us from the enjoyment to threaten us 
with the constant approach of an enemy? Or 
has she given these things for our use, and in- 
structed us to combine them for our own pro- 
tection? Who, I ask, will undertake to answer 
me, Americanus or myself? 

What would we now give for thirteen ships 
of the line to guard and protect the remote or 
weaker parts? How would Carolina feel deliv- 
erance from danger, and Georgia from despair, 
and assisted by such a fleet become the prison of 
their invaders? How would the Whigs of New 
York look up and smile with inward satisfaction 
at the display of an admiral's command, open- 
ing, like a "hey," the door of their confinement? 
How would France solace herself at such a union 
of force, and reciprocally assisting and assisted 
traverse the ocean in safety? Yet all these, or 
their similar consequences, are staked upon the 

Americanus may understand the "nature of 
fisheries," as to season, catching and curing, or 
their "extent" as to latitude and longitude; but 



as a great political question, involving with it the 
means and channels of commerce, and the prob- 
ability of empire, he is wholly unequal to the 
subject, or he would not have, as he has done, 
hmited their effects to "two or three states espe- 
cially/' By a judgment acquired from long ac- 
quaintance, he may be able to know a cod when 
he sees it, or describe the inconveniences or pleas- 
ures of a fishing voyage. Or, "born and edu- 
cated'"* among them, he may entertain us with 
the growling memories of a Newfoundland bear, 
or amuse us with the history of a foggy climate 
or a smoky hut, with all the winter chit-chat of 
fatigue and hardship; and this, in his idea, may 
be to "understand the fisheries" 

I will venture to predict that America, even 
with the assistance of all the fisheries, will never 
be a greats much less a dangerous naval power, 
and without them she will be scarcely any. I am 
established in this opinion from the known cast 
and order of things. No country of a large ex- 
tent ever yet, I believe, was powerful at sea, or 
ever will be. The natural reason of this appears 
to be that men do not, in any great numbers, 
turn their thoughts to the ocean, till either the 
country gets filled, or some peculiar advantage or 

* King of England's first speech to the British Parliament. 



necessity tempts them out. A maritime life is a 
kind of partial emigration, produced from a por- 
tion of the same causes with emigrations in gen- 
eral. The ocean becomes covered and the supply 
kept up from the constant swarmings of the 
landed hive; and as we shall never be able to fill 
the whole dominion of the Thirteen States, and 
there will ever be new land to cultivate, the 
necessity can never take place in America, and of 
course the consequences can never happen. 

Paradoxical as it may appear, greatness at 
sea is the effect of littleness by land. Want of 
room and want of employ are the generating 
causes. Holland has the most powerful navy in 
the world, compared with the small extent of 
her crowded country. France and Spain have 
too much room, and the soil too luxuriant and 
tempting, to be quitted for the ocean. Were not 
this the case, and did the abilities for a navy like 
those for land service rise in proportion to the 
number of inhabitants only, France would rival 
more than any two powers in Europe, which is 
not the case. 

Had not nature thrown the fisheries in our 
way and inflicted a degree of natural sterility on 
such parts of the continent as lie contiguous 
thereto, by way both of forcing and tempting 



their inhabitants to the ocean, America, consider- 
ing the present cast of the world, would have 
wanted the means of defense, for the far greater 
part of our seamen, except those produced by the 
fisheries, are natives of other countries. And 
shall we unwisely trifle with what we ought to 
hug as a treasure, and nourish with the utmost 
care as a protector? And must the W. H. D. 
forever mean that We Have Dunces? 

We seek not a fleet to insult the world, or 
range in foreign regions for conquests. We have 
more land than we can cultivate; more extent 
than we can fill. Our natural situation frees us 
from the distress of crowded countries, and from 
the thirst of ambitious ones. We covet not do- 
minion, for we already possess a world; we want 
not to export our laboring poor, for where can 
they live better, or where can they be more useful? 
But we want just such a fleet as the fisheries 
will enable us to keep up, and without which we 
shall be for ever exposed, a burden to our allies, 
and incapable of the necessary defense. The 
strength of America, on account of her vast 
extent, cannot be collected by land; but since 
experience has taught us to sail, and nature has 
put the means in our power, we ought in time to 
make provision for a navy, as the cheapest, safest, 


best, and most effectual security we can hereafter 
depend on. 

Having in my first and second publications 
endeavored to establish the right of America to 
the fisheries, and in this treated of their vast im- 
portance, I shall conclude with some remarks on 
the subject, as it is now said to stand in Con- 
gress, or rather the form in which it is thrown 
out to the public. 

Americanus says (and I ask not how he came 
by his knowledge) that the question is, "Whether 
the insisting on an explicit acknowledgment of 
that right (meaning the right of fishing on the 
Banks of Newfoundland) is either safe^ prudent 
or politic/^ 

Before I enter on the discussion of this point, 
it may not be improper to remark, that some inti- 
mations were made to Congress in February by 
the JNIinister of France, Mr. Gerard, respecting 
what the claims of America might be, in case any 
treaty of peace should be entered on with the 
enemy. And from this, with some account of the 
general disposition of the powers of Europe, the 
mighty buzz of peace took its rise, and several 
who ought to have known better, were whispering 
wonderful secrets at almost every tea table. 

It was a matter very earli/ supposed by those 



who had any clear judgment, that Spain would 
not immediately join in the war, but would he by 
as a mediatorial power. If she succeeded therein, 
the consequence would be peace ; if she failed, she 
would then be perfectly at Hberty to fulfil her en- 
gagements with France, etc. 

Now in order to enable Spain to act this part, 
it was necessary that the claims of Congress in 
behalf of America should be made known to their 
own Plenipotentiary at Paris, Dr. Franklin, with 
such instructions, pubhc or private, as might be 
proper to give thereon. But I observe several 
members, either so little acquainted with political 
arrangements, or supposing their constituents to 
be so, that they treat with Mr. Gerard as if that 
gentleman was our Minister, instead of the Min- 
ister of his Most Christian Majesty, and Ms name 
is brought in to a variety of business to which it 
has no proper reference. This remark may to 
some appear rather severe, but it is a necessary 
one. It is not every member of Congress who 
acts as if he felt the true importance of his char- 
acter, or the dignity of the country he acts for. 
And we seem in some instances to forget, that as 
France is the great ally of America, so America 
is the great ally of France. 

It may now be necessary to mention, that no 


instructions are yet gone to Dr. Franklin as a 
line for negotiation, and the reason is because 
none are agreed on. The reason why they are 
not agreed on is another point. But had the gen- 
tlemen who are for leaving the fisheries out 
agreed to have had them put in, instructions 
might have been sent more than four months ago ; 
and if not exactly convenient, might by this time 
have been returned and reconsidered. On whose 
side then does the fault lie? 

I profess myself an advocate, out of doors, 
for clearly, absolutely, and unequivocally ascer- 
taining the right of the states to fish on the Banks 
of Newfoundland, as one of the first and most 
necessary articles. The right and title of the 
states thereto I have endeavored to show. The 
importance of these fisheries I have endeavored to 
prove. What reason then can be given why they 
should be omitted? 

The seeds of almost every former war have 
been sown in the injudicious or defective terms of 
the preceding peace. Either the conqueror has 
insisted on too much, and thereby held the con- 
quered, hke an over-bent bow, in a continual 
struggle to snap the cord, or the latter has art- 
fully introduced an equivocal article, to take such 
advantages under as the turn of future affairs 



might afford. We have only to consult our own 
feelings, and each man may from thence learn 
the spring of all national policy. And he, who 
does not this, may be fortunate enough to effect 
a temporary measure, but never will, unless by 
accident, accomplish a lasting one. 

Perhaps the fittest condition any countries can 
be in to make a peace, calculated for duration, is 
when neither is conquered, and both are tired. 
The first of these suits England and America. 
I put England first in this case, because she be- 
gan the war. And as she must be and is con- 
vinced of the impossibility of conquering Amer- 
ica, and as America has no romantic ideas of 
extending her conquests to England, the object 
on the part of England is lost, and on the part 
of America is so far secure, that, unless she un- 
wisely conquers herself, she is certain of not being 
conquered; and this being the case, there is no 
visible object to prevent the opening a negotia- 
tion. But how far England is disposed thereto 
is a matter wholly unknown, and much to be 

A movement toward a negotiation, and a 
disposition to enter into it, are very distinct 
things. The fii'st is often made, as an army af- 
fects to retreat, in order to throw an enemy off 


his guard. To prevent which, the most vigorous 
preparations ought to be made for war at the 
very instant of negotiating for a peace. 

Let America make these preparations, and 
she may send her terms and claims whenever she 
pleases, without any apprehension of appearing 
or acting out of character. Those preparations 
relate now more to revenue than to force, and 
that being wholly and immediately within the 
compass of our own abilities, requires nothing but 
our consent to accomplish.* 

To leave the fisheries wholly out, on any pre- 
tense whatever, is to sow the seeds of another war ; 
and I will be content to have the name of an idiot 
engraven for an epitaph, if it does not produce 
that effect. The difficulties which are now given 
will become a soil for those seeds to grow in, and 
future circumstances will quicken their vegeta- 

*A plan has been proposed, and all who are judges have ap- 
proved it, for stopping the emissions [of paper money] and raising 
a revenue, by subscription for three years without interest, and 
in lieu thereof to take every subscriber's taxes out of his sub- 
scription, and the balance at the expiration of that time to be 
returned. If the states universally go into this measure, they 
will acquire a degree of strength and ability fitted either for 
peace or war. It is, I am clearly convinced, the best measure 
they can adopt, the best interest they can have, and the best 
security they can hold. In short, it is carrying on or providing 
against war without expense, because the remaining money in 
the country, after the subscriptions are made, will be equal in 
value to the whole they now hold. Boston has proposed the 
same measure. 

VIII-9 10* 


tion. Nations are very fond of appealing to 
treaties when it suits their purpose, and tho' 
America might afterwards assign her unques- 
tioned right as a reason for her silence, yet all 
must know that treaties are never to be explained 
by presumption, but wholly by what is put in, 
and never by what is left out. 

There has not yet been an argument given for 
omitting the fisheries, but what might have been 
given as a stronger reason to the contrary. All 
which has been advanced rests only on supposi- 
tion, and that failing, leaves them no foundation. 
They suppose Britain will not hereafter interrupt 
the right; but the case is, they have no right to 
that supposition; and it may likewise be parried 
by saying — suppose she should? Now the mat- 
ter, as I conceive it, stands thus — 

If the right to the states to fish on the Banks 
of Newfoundland be made and consented to as 
an article in a treaty with Britain, it of conse- 
quence becomes expressly guaranteed by the 
eleventh article of the present treaty of aUiance 
with France ; but if it be left out in a treaty with 
the former, it is not then guaranteed in the pres- 
ent treaty with the latter, because the guaran- 
teeing is hmited to "the whole of their (our) pos- 
sessions, as the same shall be fixed and assured 


to the said states at the moment of the cessation 
of their present war with England." Ai't. II. 

Were the states to claim, as a memorial to 
be recorded with themselves, an exclusive right to 
those fisheries, as a matter of right only, derived 
from natural situation, and to propose to their 
allies to guarantee to them expressly so much of 
that right as we may have occasion to use, and the 
states to guarantee to such allies such portions of 
the fisheries as they possessed by the last treaty of 
peace, there might be some pretense for not 
touching on the subject in a treaty with Britain; 
because, after the conclusion of the war, she 
would hardly venture to interrupt the states in a 
right, which, tho' not described in a treaty with 
her, should be powerfully guaranteed in a treaty 
with others. But to omit it wholly in one treaty, 
and to leave it unguaranteed in another, and to 
trust it entirely, as the phrase is, to the chapter 
of accidents, is too loose, too impolitic a mode of 
conducting national business. 

Had nothing, says Ameeicanus, been said on the 
subject of the fisheries, our fishermen, on the peace, 
might have returned to their old stations without in- 

Is this talking like an American politician, or 
a seducing emissary? Who authorized Ameri- 



CANUS to intimate such an assurance ; or how came 
he to know what the British Ministry would or 
would not hereafter do ; or how can he be certain 
they have told him truth? If it be supposition 
only, he has, as I before remarked, no right to 
make it; and if it be more than supposition, it 
must be the effect of secret correspondence. In 
the first of these cases he is foolish ; in the second 
worse. Does he not see that the fisheries are not 
expressly and only conditionally guaranteed, and 
that if in such a situation they be omitted in a 
treaty with Britain, and she should afterwards 
interrupt our right, that the states stand single in 
the question, and have no right on the face of the 
present treaties to call on their allies for assist- 
ance? And yet this man is persuading us to say 
nothing about them. 

Americanus like some others is mightily fond 
of amusing his readers with "the law of nations" 
just as if there really was such a law, fixed and 
known like the law of the ten commandments. 
Whereas the law of nations is in theory the law of 
treaties compounded with customary usage, and 
in practise just what they can get and keep till it 
be taken from them. It is a term without any 
regular defined meaning, and as in some instances 
we have invented the thing first and given the 


name afterwards, so in this we have invented the 
name and the thing is yet to be made. 

Some gentlemen say, leave the fisheries to be 
settled afterwards in a treaty of commerce. This 
is really beginning business at the wrong end. 
For a treaty of peace cannot precede the settle- 
ment of disputes, but proceeds in consequence of 
all controverted points respecting right and do- 
minion being adjusted and agreed on. There is 
one kind of treaty of commerce which may follow 
a treaty of peace, but that respects such articles 
only and the mode of trafficking with them as are 
produced within, or imported into the known and 
described dominions of the parties ; or to the rules 
of exchange, or paying or recovering debts, but 
never to the dominion itself; and comes more 
properly within the province of a consul than the 
superior contracting powers. 

With these remarks I shall, for the present, 
close the subject. It is a new one, and I have 
endeavored to give it as systematical an investiga- 
tion as the short time allowed and the other busi- 
ness I have on hand will admit of. How the af- 
fair stands in Congress, or how the cast of the 
House is on the question, I have, for several rea- 
sons, not inquired into ; neither have I conversed 
with any gentleman of that body on the subject. 



They have their opinion and I mine; and as I 
choose to think my own reasons and write my own 
thoughts, I feel the more free the less I consult. 

Who the writer of Americanus is I am not 
informed. I never said or ever beheved it to be 
Mr. Gouverneur Morris, or replied to it upon 
that supposition. The manner is not his, neither 
do I know that the principles are, and as that gen- 
tleman has disavowed it, the assurance is suffi- 
cient. I have likewise heard it supposed that Mr. 
Deane is the author, and that his friend Mr. 
Langworthy carried it to the press. But I 
know not who the author is. I have replied to 
the piece rather than to the man; tho' for the 
sake of relief to the reader and amusement to 
myself, he now and then comes in for a stroke. 

Common Sense. 

Philadelphia, July 17, 1779. 



An Act for incorporating the American Phil- 
osophical Society, held at Philadelphia for pro- 
moting useful knowledge, February 14, 1780 

WHEREAS the cultivation of useful 
knowledge, and the advancement of the 
liberal Arts and Sciences in any country, have 
the most direct tendency toward the improve- 
ment of agriculture, the enlargement of trade, 
the ease and comfort of life, the ornament of 
society, and the ease and happiness of mankind. 
And whereas this country of North America, 
which the goodness of Providence hath given us 
to inherit, from the vastness of its extent, the va- 
riety of its climate, the fertility of its soil, the yet 
unexplored treasures of its bowels, the multitude 
of its rivers, lakes, bays, inlets, and other con- 
veniences of navigation, offers to these United 
States one of the richest subjects of cultivation, 
ever presented to any people upon earth. And 
whereas the experience of ages shows that im- 
provements of a public nature are best carried on 
zy societies of liberal and ingenious men, uniting 
their labors without regard to nation, sect, or 



party, in one grand pursuit, alike interesting to 
all, whereby mutual prejudices are worn off, a 
humane and philosophical Spirit is cherished, and 
youth is stimulated to a laudable diligence and 
emulation in the pursuit of Wisdom. 

And whereas, upon these Principles, divers 
public-spirited gentlemen of Pennsylvania and 
other American States did heretofore Unite 
Themselves, under certain regulations into one 
voluntary Society, by the name of "The Ameri- 
can Philosophical Societ}^ held at Philadelphia 
for Promoting Useful Knowledge," and by their 
successful labors and investigations, to the great 
credit of America, have extended their reputation 
so far, that men of the first eminence in the re- 
public of letters in the most civilized nations of 
Europe have done honor to their publications, 
and desired to be enrolled among their Members : 
And whereas the said Society, after having been 
long interrupted in their laudable pursuits by 
the calamities of war, and the distresses of our 
country, have found means to revive their de- 
sign, in hopes of being able to prosecute the same 
with their former success, and of being further 
encouraged therein by the public, for which pur- 
pose they have prayed us, "the Representatives 
of the Freemen of the Commonwealth of Penn- 


sylvania, that they may be created One Body 
Politic and Corporate forever, with such powers, 
and privileges, and immunities as may be neces- 
sary for answering the valuable purposes which 
the said Society had originally in view." 

Wherefore, in order to encourage the said 
Society in the prosecution and advancement of 
all useful branches of knowledge, for the benefit 
of their Country and Mankind, Be it enacted, 
and it is hereby enacted by the Representatives of 
the Freemen of the Commonwealth of Pennsyl- 
vania, in General Assembly met, and by the 
authority of the same. That the members of the 
said Philosophical Society, heretofore volun-tarity 
associated for promoting useful knowledge, and 
such other persons as have been duly elected 
Members and Officers of the same, agreeably to 
the fundamental laws and regulations of the said 
Society, comprised in twelve sections, prefixed 
to their first Volume of Transactions, published 
in Philadelphia, and such other laws and regula- 
tions as shall hereafter be duly made and enacted 
by the Society, according to the tenor hereof, be 
and for ever hereafter shall be, One Body Cor- 
porate and Politic in Deed, by the name and style 
of "The American Philosophical Society held at 
Philadelphia, for promoting useful knowledge." 



And whereas — Nations truly civilized (how- 
ever unhappily at variance on other accounts) 
will never wage war with the Arts and Sciences, 
and the Common Interests of Humanity; Be it 
further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That 
it shall and may be lawful for the said Society, 
by their proper officers, at all times, whether in 
peace or war, to correspond with learned societies, 
as well as individual learned men, of any nation 
or country; upon matters merely belonging to 
the business of the said Societies, such as the mu- 
tual communication of their discoveries and pro- 
ceedings in philosophy and science ; the procuring 
Books, Apparatus, Natural Curiosities, and such 
other articles and intelligence as are usually ex- 
changed between learned bodies, for furthering 
their common pursuits: Provided always. That 
such correspondence of the said Society be at all 
times open to the inspection of the supreme Exec- 
utive Council of this Commonwealth, etc. 



:\iitions truly civiJUited (how- 

at variance on other accounts) 

^ war with the ^ ' 'Tid Sciences, 

)n Interests r^■ ' 'H^; Be it 

1 by the ail ■ l That 

uall and may be lawful 1 *c'ty, 

by their proper officers, at a r in 

e or war, to correspond with > ties, 

as well as individual learned men, ot m m 

or country; upon matters merely belongirig to 


the busmess oi me said: Societies, such as the mu- 
tual cSft^*^^;^^^*^*^ fr(^ i^^rOrhginal Painting ^jb^j.^, 

Gilbert Stuart in Boiedoin College 
ceedings m T^tMiu^iuyihiy an<i >i.:irMcc, Uin jjn^oanng 

Books, '*- ^' >^ -'t V 5 ( ' ' ariosities, and such 
other aiu <jn arc usually ex- 
changed between ^>?rthering 
their c' s, That 
such (rf' ty be at all 
times open to the insp« supreme Exec- 
utive Council of this Commonwealth, etc. 




"t WHEN we contemplate our abhorrence of 
-■- that condition, to which the arms and ty- 
ranny of Great Britain were exerted to reduce us, 
when we look back on the variety of dangers to 
which we have been exposed, and how miraculous- 
ly our wants in many instances have been sup- 
plied, and our deliverances wrought, when even 
hope and human fortitude have become unequal 
to the conflict, we are unavoidably led to a serious 
and grateful sense of the manifold blessings, 
which we have undeservedly received from the 
hand of that Being, from whom every good and 
perfect gift cometh. 

Impressed with these ideas, we conceive that 
it is our duty, and we rejoice that it is in our 
power, to extend a portion of that freedom to 
others, which hath been extended to us, and re- 
lease them from the state of thralldom, to which 
we ourselves were tyrannically doomed, and from 
which we have now every prospect of being deliv- 
ered. It is not for us to inquire why, in the cre- 
ation of mankind, the inhabitants of the several 



parts of the earth were distinguished by a differ- 
ence in feature or complexion. It is sufficient to 
know that all are the work of the Almighty 
Hand. We find in the distribution of the hu- 
man species, that the most fertile as well as the 
most barren parts of the earth are inhabited by 
men of complexions different from ours, and 
from each other ; from w hence we may reasonably 
as well as religiously infer, that He, who placed 
them in their various situations, hath extended 
equally His care and protection to all, and that it 
becometh not us to counteract His mercies. 

We esteem it a peculiar blessing granted to 
us, that we are enabled this day to add one more 
step to universal civilization, by removing, as 
much as possible, the sorrows of those who have 
lived in undeserved bondage, and from which, by 
the assumed authority of the Kings of Great 
Britain, no effectual legal relief could be ob- 
tained. Weaned, by a long course of experience, 
from those narrow prejudices and partialities we 
had imbibed, we find our hearts enlarged with 
kindness and benevolence toward men of all con- 
ditions and nations ; and we conceive ourselves at 
this particular period particularly called upon by 
the blessings which we have received, to manifest 


the sincerity of our profession, and to give a sub- 
stantial proof of our gratitude. 

2. And whereas the condition of those per- 
sons, who have heretofore been denominated 
negro and mulatto slaves, has been attended 
with circumstances, which not only deprived them 
of the common blessings that they were by nature 
entitled to, but has cast them into the deepest 
afflictions, by an unnatural separation and sale of 
husband and wife from each other and from their 
children, an injury, the greatness of which can 
only be conceived by supposing that we were in 
the same unhappy case. In justice, therefore, to 
persons so unhappily circumstanced, and who, 
having no prospect before them whereon they 
may rest their sorrows and their hopes, have no 
reasonable inducement to render their services to 
society, which they otherwise might, and also in 
grateful commemoration of our own happy de- 
liverance from that state of unconditional sub- 
mission to which we were doomed by the tyranny 
of Britain, 

3. Be it enacted, etc. 



(Philadelphia, December 30, 1780) 


'nr^HE following pages are on a subject 
-^ hitherto little understood but highly inter- 
esting to the United States. 

They contain an investigation of the claims of 
Virginia to the vacant western territory, and of 
the right of the United States to the same; with 
some outlines of a plan for laying out a new 
state, to be applied as a fund, for carrying on 
the war, or redeeming the national debt. 

The reader, in the course of this publication, 
will find it studiously plain, and, as far as I can 
judge, perfectly candid. What materials I could 
get at I have endeavored to place in a clear line, 
and deduce such arguments therefrom as the sub- 
ject required. In the prosecution of it, I have 
considered myself as an advocate for the right of 
the states, and taken no other liberty with the sub- 

* This pamphlet was published with the following title : "Pub- 
lic Good: Being an Examination into the Claims of Virginia 
to the Vacant Western Territory, and of the Right of the United 
States to the Same: to Which is Added Proposals for Laying off 
a New State, to be Applied as a Fund for Carrying on the War, 
or Redeeming the National Debt." — Ed. 



ject than what a counsel would, and ought to do, 
in behalf of a chent. 

I freely confess that the respect I had con- 
ceived, and still preserve, for the character of 
Virginia, was a constant check upon those sallies 
of imagination, which are fairly and advantage- 
ously indulged against an enemy, but ungenerous 
when against a friend. 

If there is anything I have omitted or mis- 
taken, to the injury of the intentions of Virginia 
or her claims, I shall gladly rectify it, or if there 
is anything yet to add, should the subject require 
it, I shall as cheerfully undertake it ; being fully 
convinced, that to have matters fairly discussed, 
and properly understood, is a principal means of 
preserving harmony and perpetuating friendship. 

The Author. 



When we take into view the mutual happi- 
ness and united interests of the states of America, 
and consider the vast consequences to arise from 
a strict attention of each, and of all, to every- 
thing which is just, reasonable, and honorable; 
or the evils that will follow from an inattention 
to those principles; there cannot, and ought not, 
to remain a doubt but the governing rule of right 
and of mutual good must in all public cases 
finally preside. 

The hand of Providence has cast us into one 
common lot, and accomplished the independence 
of America, by the unanimous consent of the 
several parts, concurring at once in time, manner 
and circumstances. No superiority of interest, 
at the expense of the rest, induced the one, more 
than the other, into the measure. Virginia and 
Maryland, it is true, might foresee that their 
staple commodity, tobacco, by being no longer 
monopolized by Britain, would bring them a bet- 
ter price abroad: for as the tax on it in England 
was treble its first purchase from the planter, 
and they being now no longer compelled to send 
it under that obligation, and in the restricted 


manner they formerly were, it is easy to see that 
the article, from the alteration of the circum- 
stances of trade, will, and daily does, turn out 
to them with additional advantages. 

But this being a natural consequence, pro- 
duced by that common freedom and indepen- 
dence of which all are partakers, is therefore an 
advantage they are entitled to, and on which the 
rest of the states can congratulate them without 
feeling a wish to lessen, but rather to extend it. 
To contribute to the increased prosperity of an- 
other, by the same means which occasion our 
own, is an agreeable reflection; and the more 
valuable any article of export becomes, the more 
riches will be introduced into and spread over 
the continent. 

Yet this is an advantage which those two 
states derive from the independence of America, 
superior to the local circumstances of the rest; 
and of the two it more particularly belongs to 
Virginia than Maryland, because the staple com- 
modity of a considerable part of Maryland is 
flour, which, as it is an article that is the growth 
of Europe as well as of America, cannot obtain 
a foreign market but by underselling, or at least 
by limiting it to the current price abroad. But 
tobacco commands its own price. It is not a 
viii-io 123 


plant of almost universal growth, like wheat. 
There are but few soils and climes that produce 
it to advantage, and before the cultivation of it 
in Virginia and Maryland, the price was from 
four to sixteen shilUngs sterling a pound in 

But the condition of the vacant western ter- 
ritory of America makes a very different case to 
that of the circumstances of trade in any of the 
states. Those very lands, formed, in contempla- 
tion, the fund by which the debt of America 
would in the course of years be redeemed. They 
were considered as the common right of all; and 
it is only till lately that any pretension of claim 
has been made to the contrary. 

That difficulties and differences will arise in 
communities, ought always to be looked for. 
The opposition of interests, real or supposed, the 
variety of judgments, the contrariety of temper, 
and, in short, the whole composition of man, in 
his individual capacity, is tinctured with a dispo- 
sition to contend; but in his social capacity there 
is either a right, which, being proved, terminates 
the dispute, or a reasonableness in the measure, 

* See Sir Dalby Thomas's "Historical Accoxint of the rise and 
growth of the West India CJolonies." 



where no direct right can be made out, which de- 
cides or compromises the matter. 

As I shall have frequent occasion to mention 
the word right , I wish to be clearly understood in 
my definition of it. There are various senses in 
which this term is used, and custom has, in many 
of them, afforded it an introduction contrary to 
its true meaning. We are so naturally inclined 
to give the utmost degree of force to our own 
case, that we call every pretension, however 
founded, a right; and by this means the term fre- 
quently stands opposed to justice and reason. 

After Theodore was elected King of Corsica, 
not many years ago, by the mere choice of the 
natives, for their own convenience in opposing 
the Genoese, he went over to England, run him- 
self in debt, got himself into jail, and on his 
release therefrom, by the benefit of an act of in- 
solvency, he surrendered up what he called his 
kingdom of Corsica, as a part of his personal 
property, for the use of his creditors; some of 
whom may hereafter call this a charter, or by 
any other name more fashionable, and ground 
thereon what they may term a right to the sov- 
ereignty and property of Corsica. But does not 
justice abhor such an action both in him and 



them, under the prostituted name of a rightj and 
must not laughter be excited wherever it is told? 

A right, to be truly so, must be right within 
itself: yet many things have obtained the name 
of rights, which are originally founded in wrong. 
Of this kind are all rights by mere conquest, 
power or violence. In the cool moments of re- 
flection we are obliged to allow, that the mode by 
which such a right is obtained, is not the best 
suited to that spirit of universal justice which 
ought to preside equally over all mankind. 
There is something in the establishment of such 
a right, that we wish to slip over as easily as pos- 
sible, and say as little about as can be. But in 
the case of a right founded in right, the mind is 
carried cheerfully into the subject, feels no com- 
punction, suffers no distress, subjects its sensa- 
tions to no violence, nor sees an3rthing in its way 
which requires an artificial smoothing. 

From this introduction I proceed to examine 
into the claims of Virginia; first, as to the right, 
secondly as to the reasonableness, and lastly, as 
to the consequences. 

The name, Virginia, originally bore a differ- 
ent meaning to what it does now. It stood in the 
place of the word North America, and seems to 
have been a name comprehensive of all the Eng- 


lish settlements or colonies on the continent, and 
not descriptive of any one as distinguished from 
the rest. All to the southward of the Chesa- 
peake, as low as the Gulf of Mexico, was called 
South Virginia, and all to the northward, North 
Virginia, in a similar line of distinction, as we 
now call the whole continent North and South 

The first charter, or patent, was to Sir W^al- 
ter Raleigh by Queen Elizabeth, of England, in 
the year 1583, and had neither name nor bounds. 
Upon Sir Walter's return, the name Virginia 
was given to the whole country, including the 
now United States. Consequently the present 
Virginia, either as a province or state, can set up 
no exclusive claim to the western territory under 
this patent, and that for two reasons: first, be- 
cause the words of the patent run to Sir Walter 
Raleigh, and such persons as he should nominate, 
themselves and their successors; which is a line 
of succession Virginia does not pretend to stand 
in; and secondly, because a prior question would 
arise, namely, who are to be understood by Vir- 
ginians under this patent? and the answer would 
be, all the inhabitants of America, from New- 
England to Florida. 

* Oldmixon's "History of Virginia." 



This patent, therefore, would destroy their 
exclusive claim, and invest the right collectively 
in the thirteen states. 

But it unfortunately happened, that the set- 
tlers under this patent, partly from misconduct, 
the opposition of the Indians, and other calam- 
ities, discontinued the process, and the patent 
became extinct. 

After this, James I, who, in the year 
1602, succeeded Elizabeth, issued a new patent, 
which I come next to describe. 

This patent differed from the former in this 
essential point, that it had limits, whereas the 
other had none: the former was intended to pro- 
mote discoveries wherever they could be made, 
which accounts why no limits were affixed, and 
this to settle discoveries already made, which like- 
wise assigns a reason why limits should be de- 

In this patent were incorporated two com- 
panies, called the South Virginia Company, and 
the North Virginia Company, and sometimes the 
London Company, and the Plymouth Company. 

The South Virginia or London Company 

was composed chiefly of London adventurers; 

the North Virginia or Plymouth Company was 

made up of adventurers from Plymouth in Dev- 



onshire and other persons of the western part of 

Though they were not to fix together, yet 
they were allowed to choose their places of settle- 
ment anywhere on the coast of America, then 
called Virginia, between the latitudes of 34 and 
45 degrees, which was a range of 760 miles: the 
South Company was not to go below 34 degrees, 
nor the North Company above 45 degrees. But 
the patent expressed, that as soon as they had 
made their choice, each was to become hmited to 
50 miles each way on the coast, and 100 up the 
country; so that the grant to each country was 
a square of 100 miles, and no more. The North 
Virginia or Plymouth Company settled to the 
eastward, and in the year 1614, changed the 
name, and called that part New England. The 
South Virginia or London Company settled near 
Cape Henry. 

This then cannot be the patent of boundless 
extent, and that for two reasons: first, because 
the limits are described, namely, a square of 100 
miles ; and secondly, because there were two com- 
panies of equal rights included in the same 

Three years after this, that is, in the year 
1609, the South Virginia Company applied for 



new powers from the Crown of England, which 
were granted them in a new patent, and the 
boundaries of the grant enlarged; and this is the 
charter, or patent, on which some of the present 
Virginians ground their pretension to boundless 

The first reflection that presents itself on this 
enlargement of the grant is, that it must be sup- 
posed to bear some intended degree of reasonable 
comparison to that which it superseded. The 
former could not be greater than a square of one 
hundred miles ; and this new one being granted in 
lieu of that, and that within the space of three 
years, and by the same person, James I, 
who was never famed either for profusion or 
generosity, cannot, on a review of the time and 
circumstances of the grant, be supposed a very 
extravagant or very extraordinary one. If a 
square of one hundred miles was not sufficiently 
large, twice that quantity was as much as could 
well be expected or solicited ; but to suppose that 
he, who had caution enough to confine the first 
grant within moderate bounds, should, in so short 
a space as three years, supersede it by another 
grant of many million times greater extent, is 
on the face of the affair, a circumstantial nullity. 

Whether this patent, or charter, was in exist- 


ence or not at the time the Revolution commenced, 
is a matter I shall hereafter speak to, and con- 
fine myself in this place to the limits which the 
said patent or charter lays down. The words are 
as follow: 

Beginning at the cape or point of land called 
Cape or Point Comfort, thence all along the seacoast 
to the NOETHWARD 200 miles, and from the said Point 
or Cape Comfort, all along the seacoast to the south- 
ward, 200 miles ; and all that space or circuit of land 
lying from the seacoast of the precinct aforesaid up 
into the land throughout, from sea to sea, west and 

The first remark I shall offer on the words of 
this grant is, that they are uncertain, obscure, 
and unintelligible, and may be construed into 
such a variety of contradictory meanings as to 
leave at last no meaning at all. 

Whether the two hundred miles each way 
from Cape Comfort, were to be on a straight line, 
or ascertained by following the indented line of 
the coasts that is, ^^all along the seacoast/' in and 
out as the coast lay, cannot now be fulty deter- 
mined; because, as either will admit of supposi- 
tion, and nothing but supposition can be pro- 
duced, therefore neither can be taken as positive. 
Thus far may be said, that had it been intended 
to be a straight line, the word straight ought to 



have been inserted, which would have made the 
matter clear; but as no inference can be well 
drawn to the advantage of that which does not 
appear^, against that which does, therefore the 
omission implies negatively in favor of the coast- 
indented line, or that the 400 miles were to be 
traced on the windings of the coast, that is ^^all 
along the seacoast" 

But what is meant by the words ''west and 
northwest" is still more unintelligible. Whether 
they mean a west line and a northwest hne, or 
whether they apply to the general lying of the 
land from the Atlantic, without regard to lines, 
cannot again be determined. But if they are 
supposed to mean lines to be run, then a new 
difficulty of more magnitude than all the rest 
arises; namely, from which end of the extent on 
the coast is the west line and the northwest hne 
to be set off? As the difference in the contents 
of the grant, occasioned by transposing them, is 
many hundred millions of acres; and either in- 
cludes or excludes a far greater quantity of land 
than the whole thirteen United States contain. 
In short, there is not a boundary in this grant 
that is clear, fixed and defined. The coast line is 
uncertain, and that being the base on which the 
others are to be formed, renders the whole un- 


certain. But even if this line was admitted, in 
either shape, the other boundaries would still be 
on supposition, till it might be said there is no 
boundary at all, and consequently no charter; 
for words which describe nothing can give 

The advocates for the Virginia claim, laying 
hold of these ambiguities, have explained the 
grant thus : 

Four hundred miles on the sea-coast, and 
from the south point a w^est line to the great 
South Sea, and from the north point a northwest 
line to the said South Sea. The figure which 
these lines produce will be thus: 


S, / New- New- 

^ / York England. 

^ 200 S. I 200 N. 

But why, I ask, must the west land hne be 
set off from the south point, any more than the 
north point? The grant or patent does not say 



from which it shall be, neither is it clear that a 
line is the thing intended by the words: but ad- 
mitting that it is, on what grounds do the claim- 
ants proceed in making this choice? The answer, 
I presume, is easily given, namely, because it is 
the most beneficial explanation to themselves 
they can possibly make ; as it takes in many thou- 
sand times more extent of country than any other 
explanation would. But this, though it be a 
very good reason to them, is a very bad reason to 
us; and though it may do for the claimants to 
hope upon, will not answer to plead upon; 
especially to the very people, who, to confirm 
the partiality of the claimants' choice, must re- 
linquish their own right and interest. 

Why not set off the west land line from the 
north end of the coast line, and the northwest 
line from the south end of the same? There is 
some reason why this should be the construction, 
and none why the other should. 

1st, Because if the line of two hundred miles 
each way from Cape Comfort, be traced by fol- 
lowing the indented line of the coast, which seems 
to be the imphed intention of the words, and a 
west line set oif from the north end, and a north- 
west line from the south end, these lines will all 
unite (which the other construction never can) 


and form a complete triangle, the contents of 
which will be about twenty-nine or thirty millions 
of acres, or something larger than Pennsylvania ; 

2d, Because this construction is following 
the order of the lines expressed in the grant ; for 
the first mentioned coast line, which is to the 
northward of Cape Comfort, and the first men- 
tioned land hne, which is the west line, have a 
numerical relation, being the first mentioned of 
each; and implies, that the west line was to be 
set off from the north point and not from the 
south point; and consequently the two last men- 
tioned of each have the same numerical relation, 
and again implies that the northwest hne was to 
be set off from the south point, and not from the 
north point. But why the claimants should break 
through the order of the lines, and contrary to 
imphcation, join the first mentioned of the one, 
to the last mentioned of the other, and thereby 
produce a shapeless monster, for which there is 
no name nor any parallel in the world, either as 
to extent of soil and sovereignty, is a construc- 
tion that cannot be supported. 

The figure produced by following the order 
of the lines is as follows * : 

* N. B. If the reader will cast his tje. again over the words of 



I presume that if 400 miles be traced by fol- 
lowing the inflexes of any seashore, that the two 
extremes will not be more than 300 miles distant 
from each other, on a straight line. Therefore, 
to find the contents of a triangle, whose base is 
300 miles, multiply the length of the base into 
half the perpendicular, which, in this case, is the 
west line, and the product will be the answer: 

300 miles, length of the base. 

150 half the perpendicular (supposing it a right-angled 


45,000 contents of the grant in square miles. 
640 acres in a square mile. 


28,800,000 contents in square acres. 

the patent on p. 38, [pamphlet edition] he will perceive the numer- 
ical relation alluded to, by observing, that the first mentioned 
coast line and the first mentioned land line are distinguished by 
CAPITALS. And the last mentioned of each by italics, which I have 
chosen to do to illustrate the explanation. 



Nor will anyone undertake to say, that this 
explanation is not as fairly drawn (if not more 
so) from the words themselves, as any other that 
can be offered? Because it is not only justified 
by the exact words of the patent, grant, or char- 
ter, or any other name by which it may be called, 
but by their implied meaning; and is likewise of 
such contents as may be supposed to have been 
intended; whereas the claimants' explanation is 
without bounds, and beyond everything that is 
reasonable. Yet, after all, who can say what was 
the precise meaning of terms and expressions so 
loosely formed, and capable of such a variety 
of contradictory interpretations? 

Had the order of the lines been otherwise 
than they are in the patent, the reasonableness 
of the thing must have directed the manner in 
which they should be connected: but as the claim 
is founded in unreasonableness, and that unrea- 
sonableness endeavored to be supported by a 
transposition of the lines, there remains no pre- 
tense for the claim to stand on. 

Perhaps those who are interested in the claim- 
ants' explanation will say that as the South Sea 
is spoken of, the lines must be as they explain 
them, in order to reach it. 

To this I reply ; first, that no man then knew 



how far it was from the Atlantic to the South 
Sea, as I shall presently show, but believed it to 
be but a short distance: and, 

Secondly, that the uncertain and ambiguous 
manner in which the South Sea is alluded to (for 
it is not mentioned by name, but only "from sea 
to sea") serves to perplex the patent, and not to 
explain it ; and as no right can be founded on an 
ambiguity, but on some proof cleared of am- 
biguity, therefore the allusive introduction of 
"from sea to sea" can yield no service to the 

There is likewise an ambiguous mention 
made of two lands in this patent, as well as of two 
seas; viz. and all that "space or circuit of land 
lying from the seacoast of the precinct aforesaid 
up into the land throughout from sea to sea" 

On which I remark, that the two lands here 
mentioned have the appearance of a major and 
a minor, or the greater out of which the less is 
to be taken : and the term from "sea to sea" may 
be said to apply descriptively to the land through- 
out and not to the space or circuit of land pat- 
ented to the company" ; in a similar manner that 
a former patent described a major of 706 miles 
in extent, out of which the minor, or square of 
one hundred miles, was to be chosen. 


But to suppose that because the South Sea is 
darkly alluded to, it must therefore ( at whatever 
distance it might be, which then nobody knew, 
or for whatever purpose it might be introduced) 
be made a certain boundary, and that without 
regard to the reasonableness of the matter, or the 
order in which the Hues are arranged, which is the 
only implication the patent gives for setting off 
the land lines, is a supposition that contradicts 
everything which is reasonable. 

The figure produced by following the order 
of the lines will be complete in itself, let the dis- 
tance to the South Sea be more or less; because, 
if the land througJiout from sea to sea had not 
been sufficiently extensive to admit the west land 
line and the northwest land line to close, the 
South Sea, in that case, would have eventually 
become a boundary ; but if the extent of the land 
throughout from sea to sea^ was so great that the 
lines closed without reaching the said South Sea, 
the figure was complete without it. 

Wherefore, as the order of the fines, when 
raised on the indented coast line, produces a reg- 
ular figure of reasonable dimensions, and of 
about the same contents, though not of the same 
shape, which Virginia now holds within the Alle- 
ghany Mountains ; and by transposing them, an- 
viii-n 139 


other figure is produced, for which there is no 
name, and cannot be completed, as I shall pres- 
ently explain, and of an extent greater than one 
half of Europe, it is needless to offer any other 
arguments to show that the order of the lines 
must be the rule, if any rule can be drawn from 
the words, for ascertaining from which point the 
west line and northwest line were to be set off. 

Neither is it possible to suppose any other rule 
could be followed; because a northwest line set 
off two hundred miles above Cape Comfort, 
would not only never touch the South Sea, but 
would form a spiral Hne of infinite windings 
round the globe, and after passing over the 
northern parts of America and the frozen ocean, 
and then into the northern parts of Asia, would, 
when eternity should end, and not before, ter- 
minate in the North Pole. 

This is the only manner in which I can ex- 
press the effect of a northwest line, set off as 
above; because as its direction must always be 
between the North and the West, it consequently 
can never get into the Pole nor yet come to a 
rest, and on the principle that matter or space is 
capable of being eternally divided, must proceed 
on forever. 

But it was a prevailing opinion, at the time 


this patent was obtained, that the South Sea 
was at no great distance from the Atlantic, and 
therefore it was needless, under that supposition, 
to regard which way the lines should be run; 
neither need we wonder at this error in the Eng- 
lish Government respecting America then, when 
we see so many and such glaring ones now, for 
which there is much less excuse. 

Some circumstances favored this mistake. 
Admiral Sir Francis Drake, not long before this, 
had, from the top of a mountain in the Isthmus 
of Darien, which is the center of North and 
South America, seen both the South Sea and the 
Atlantic, the width of the part of the continent 
where he then was, not being above 70 miles; 
whereas its width opposite Chesapeake Bay is as 
great, if not greater, than in any other part, 
being from sea to sea about the distance it is from 
America to England. But this could not then 
be known, because only two voyages had been 
made across the South Sea; the one by the ship 
in which Magellan sailed, who died on his pas- 
sage, and which was the first ship which sailed 
around the world, and the other by Sir Francis 
Drake ; but as neither of these sailed into a north- 
ern latitude in that ocean, high enough to fix the 
longitude of the Western coast of America from 



the Eastern, the distance across was entirely on 
supposition, and the errors they then ran into ap- 
pear laughable to us who now know what the dis- 
tance is. 

That the Company expected to come at the 
South Sea without much trouble or traveling, 
and that the great body of land which intervened, 
so far from being their view in obtaining the 
charter, became their disappointment, may be 
collected from a circumstance mentioned in 
Stith's "History of Virginia." 

He relates, that in the year 1608, which was 
at the time the Company were soliciting this pat- 
ent, they fitted up in England "a barge for Cap- 
tain Newport, (who was afterwards one of the 
joint deputy governors under the very charter 
we are now treating of) , which, for convenience 
of carriage, might be taken into five pieces, and 
with which he and his company were instructed 
to go up James River as far as the falls thereof, 
to discover the country of the Monakins, and 
from thence they were to proceed, carrying their 
barge beyond the falls to convey them to the 
South Sea; being ordered not to return without 
a lump of gold, or a certainty of the said sea." 
And Hutchinson, in his history of New Eng- 
land, which was called North Virginia at the time 


this patent was obtained, says "the geography of 
this part of America was less understood than 
at present. A Hne to the Spanish settlements 
was imagined to be much shorter than it really 
was. Some of Champlain's people in the be- 
ginning of the last century, who had been but a 
few days' march from Quebec, returned with 
great joy, supposing that from the top of a high 
mountain, they had discovered the South Sea." 

From these matters, which are evidences on 
record, it appears that the adventurers had no 
knowledge of the distance it was to the South 
Sea, but supposed it to be no great way from the 
Atlantic; and also that great extent of territory 
was not their object, but a short communication 
with the southern ocean, by which they might 
get into the neighborhood of the Gold Coast, and 
likewise carry on a commerce with the East 

Having thus shown the confused and various 
interpretations this charter is subject to, and that 
it may be made to mean anything and nothing; 
I proceed to show, that, let the limits of it be 
more or less, the present state of Virginia does 
not, and cannot, as a matter of right, inherit 
under it. 



I shall open this part of the subject by put- 
ting the following case: 

Either Virginia stands in succession to the 
London Company, to whom the charter was 
granted, or to the Crown of England. If to the 
London Company, then it becomes her, as an out- 
set in the matter, to show who they were, and 
likewise that they were in possession to the com- 
mencement of the Revolution. If to the Crown, 
then the charter is of consequence superseded; 
because the Crown did not possess territories by 
charter, but by prerogative without charter. 
The notion of the Crown chartering to itself is a 
nullity; and in this case, the unpossessed lands, 
be they little or much, are in the same condition 
as if they had never been chartered at all; and 
the sovereignty of them devolves to the sover- 
eignty of the United States. 

The charter or patent of 1609, as well as that 
of 1606, was to Sir Thomas Gates, Sir George 
Summers, the Rev. Richard Hacluit, Prebend of 
Westminster, and others; and the government 
was then proprietary. These proprietors, by vir- 
tue of the charter of 1609, chose Lord Delaware 
for their governor, and Sir Thomas Gates, Sir 
George Summers, and Captain Newport, (the 
person who was to go with a boat to the South 


Sea) , joint deputy governors. Was this the 
form of government either as to soil or constitu- 
tion at the time the present Revolution com- 
menced? If not, the charter was not in being; 
for it matters not to us how it came to be out of 
beings so long as the present Virginians, or their 
ancestors, neither are, nor were sufferers by the 
change then made. 

But suppose it could not be proved to be in 
being, which it cannot, because being, in a charter, 
is power, it would only prove a right in behalf 
of the London Company of adventurers ; but how 
that right is to be disposed of is another question. 
We are not defending the right of the London 
Company, deceased 150 years ago, but taking up 
the matter at the place where we found it, and 
so far as the authority of the Crown of England 
was exercised when the Revolution commenced. 
The charter was a contract between the Crown of 
England and those adventurers for their own 
emolument, and not between the Crown and the 
people of Virginia; and whatever was the occa- 
sion of the contract becoming void, or surren- 
dered up, or superseded, makes no part of the 
question now. 

It is sufficient that when the United States 

succeeded to sovereignty they found no such con- 



tract in existence, or even in litigation. They 
found Virginia under the authority of the Crown 
of England both as to soil and government, sub- 
ject to quit-rents to the Crown and not to the 
Company, and had been so for upwards of 150 
years : and that an instrument or deed of writing, 
of a private nature, as all proprietary contracts 
are, so far as land is concerned, and which is now 
historically known, and in which Virginia was 
no party, and to which no succession in any line 
can be proved, and has ceased for 150 years, 
should now be raked from oblivion and held up 
as a charter whereon to assume a right to bound- 
less territory, and that by a perversion of the 
order of it, is something very singular and ex- 

If there was any innovation on the part of 
the Crown, the contest rested between the Crown 
and the proprietors, the London Company, and 
not between Virginia and the said Crown. It 
was not her charter; it was the Company's char- 
ter, and the only parties in the case were the 
Crown and the Company. 

But why, if Virginia contends for the immu- 
tability of charters, has she selected this in prefer- 
ence to the two former ones ? All her arguments, 
arising from this principle, must go to the first 


charter and not to the last; but by placing them 
to the last, instead of the first, she admits a fact 
against her principle; because, in order to 
lish the last, she proves the first to be vacated by 
the second in the space of twenty -three years, the 
second to be vacated by the third in the space of 
three years; and why the third should not be va- 
cated by the fourth form of government, issuing 
from the same power with the former two, and 
which took place about twenty-five years after, 
and continued in being for one hundred and fifty 
years since, and under which all her public and 
private business was transacted, her purchases 
made, her warrants for survey and patents for 
land obtained, is too mysterious to account for. 
Either the re-assumption of the London Com- 
pany's charter into the hands of the Crown was 
an usurpation, or it was not. If it was, then, 
strictly speaking, is everything which Virginia 
has done under that usurpation illegal, and she 
may be said to have lived in the most curious 
species of rebellion ever known ; rebellion against 
the London Company of adventurers. For if 
the charter to the Company ( for it was not to the 
Virginians) ought to be in being now, it ought 
to have been in being then; and why she should 

admit its vacation then and reject it now, is un- 



accountable; or why she should esteem her pur- 
chases of land good which were then made con- 
trary to this charter, and now contend for the 
operation of the same charter to possess new ter- 
ritory by, are circumstances which cannot be 

But whether the charter, as it is called, ought 
to be extinct or not, cannot make a question with 
us. All the parties concerned in it are deceased, 
and no successors, in any regular line of succes- 
sion, appear to claim. Neither the London Com- 
pany of adventurers, their heirs or assigns, were 
in possession of the exercise of this charter at 
the commencement of the Revolution ; and there- 
fore the state of Virginia does not, in point of 
fact, succeed to and inherit from the Company. 

But, say they, we succeed to and inherit from 
the Crown of England, which was the immediate 
possessor of the sovereignty at the time we en- 
tered, and had been so for one hundred and fifty 

To say this, is to say there is no charter at 
all. A charter is an assurance from one party to 
another, and cannot be from the same party to 

But before I enter further on this case, I 
shall concisely state how this charter came to be 


re-assumed by the power which granted it, the 
Crown of England. 

I have abeady stated that it was a proprietary 
charter, or grant, to Sir Thomas Gates and 
others, who were called the London Company, 
and sometimes the South Virginia Company, to 
distinguish them from those who settled to the 
eastward (now New England) and were then 
called the North Virginia or Plymouth Com- 

Oldmixon's "History of Virginia" (in his ac- 
count of the British Empire in America) pub- 
lished in the year 1708, gives a concise progress 
of the affair. He attributes it to the misconduct, 
contentions and mismanagements of the proprie- 
tors, and their innovations upon the Indians, 
which had so exasperated them, that they fell on 
the settlers, and destroyed at one time three hun- 
dred and thirty-four men, women and children. 

Some time after this massacre, (says he), several 
gentlemen in England procured grants of land from 
the Company, and others came over on their private 
accounts to make settlements ; among the former was 
one Captain Martin, who was named to be of the coun- 
cil. This man raised so many differences among them, 
that new distractions followed, which the Indians ob- 
serving, took heart, and once more fell upon the set- 
tlers on the borders, destroying, without pitying either 
age, sex, or condition. 

\ 149 


These and other calamities being chiefly imputed 
to the mismanagement of the proprietors, whose losses 
had so discouraged most of their best members, that 
they sold their shares, and Charles I., on his accession 
to the throne, dissolved the Company, and took the 
colony into his own immediate direction. He appointed 
the governor and council himself, ordered all patents 
and processes to issue in his own name, and reserved 
a quit-rent of two shillings sterling for every hundred 

Thus far our author. Now it is impossible 
for us at this distance of time to say what were all 
the exact causes of the change; neither have we 
any business with it. The Company might sur- 
render it, or they might not, or they might for- 
feit it by not fulfilling conditions, or they might 
sell it, or the Crown might, as far as we know, 
take it from them. But what are either of these 
cases to Virginia, or any other which can be pro- 
duced? She was not a party in the matter. It 
was not her charter, neither can she ingraft any 
right upon it, or suffer any injury under it. 

If the charter was vacated, it must have been 
by the London Company ; if it was surrendered, 
it must be by the same ; and if it was sold, nobody 
else could sell it ; and if it was taken from them, 
nobody else could lose it; and yet Virginia calls 
this her charter, which it was not within her power 
to hold, to sell, to vacate, or to lose. 


But if she puts her right upon the ground 
that it never was sold, surrendered, lost, or 
vacated, by the London Company, she admits 
that if they had sold, surrendered, lost, or vacated 
it, it would have become extinct, and to her no 
charter at all. And in this case, the only thing to 
prove is the fact, which is, has this charter been 
the rule of government, and of purchasing or 
procuring unappropriated lands in Virginia, 
from the time it was granted to the time of the 
Revolution? Answer — the charter has not been 
the rule of government, nor of purchasing and 
procuring lands, neither have any lands been pur- 
chased or procured under its sanction or authority 
for upwards of one hundred and fifty years. 

But if she goes a step further, and says, that 
they could not vacate, surrender, sell, or lose 
it, by any act they could do, so neither could 
they vacate, surrender, sell or lose that of 
1606, which was three years prior to this: and 
this argument, so far from estabhshing the 
charter of 1609, would destroy it; and in its stead 
confirm the preceding one, which limited the 
Company to a square of one hundred miles. And 
if she still goes back to that of Sir Walter 
Raleigh, that only places her in the light of 
Americans common with all. 



The only fact that can be clearly proved is, 
that the Crown of England exercised the power 
of dominion and government in Virginia, and of 
the disposal of the lands, and that the charter 
had neither been the rule of government or pur- 
chasing land for upwards of one hundred and 
fifty years, and this places Virginia in succession 
to the Crown, and not to the Company. Conse- 
quently it proves a lapse of the charter into the 
hands of the Crown by some means or other. 

Now to suppose that the charter could return 
into the hands of the Crown and yet remain in 
force, is to suppose that a man could be bound 
by a bond of obligation to himself. 

Its very being in the hands of the Crown, from 
which it issued, is a cessation of its existence ; and 
an effectual unchartering all that part of the 
grant which was not before disposed of. And 
consequently the state of Virginia, standing thus 
in succession to the Crown, can be entitled to no 
more extent of country as a state under the 
Union, than what it possessed as a province under 
the Crown. And all lands exterior to these 
bounds, as well of Virginia as the rest of the 
states, devolve, in the order of succession, to the 
sovereignty of the United States for the benefit 

of aU. 



And this brings the case to what were the 
limits of Virginia as a province under the Crown 
of England. 

Charter it had none. Its limits then rested 
at the discretion of the authority to which it was 
subject. Maryland and Pennsylvania became its 
boundary to the eastward and northward, and 
North Carolina to the southward, therefore the 
boundary to the westward was the only principal 
line to be ascertained. 

As Virginia, from a proprietary soil and gov- 
ernment was become what then bore the name of 
a royal one, the extent of the province, as the 
order of things then stood (for something must 
always be admitted whereon to form a begin- 
ning) was wholly at the disposal of the Crown 
of England, who might enlarge or diminish, or 
erect new governments to the westward, by the 
same authoritative right that Virginia now can 
divide a county into two, if too large, or too in- 

To say, as has been said, that Pennsylvania, 

Maryland, and North Carolina, were taken out 

of Virginia, is no more than to say, they were 

taken out of America; because Virginia was the 

common name of all the country. North and 

South ; and to say they were taken out of the char- 



tered limits of Virginia, is likewise to say noth- 
ing; because, after the dissolution or extinction 
of the proprietary company, there was nobody to 
whom any provincial limits became chartered. 
The extinction of the Company was the extinction 
of the chartered limits. The patent could not 
survive the Company, because it was to them a 
right, which, when they expired, ceased to be any- 
body's else in their stead. 

But to return to the western boundary of 
Virginia at the commencement of the Revolution. 

Charters, like proclamations, were the sole act 
of the Crown, and if the former were adequate 
to fix limits to the lands which it gave away, sold, 
or otherwise disposed of, the latter were equally 
adequate to fix limits or divisions to those which 
it retained; and therefore, the western limits of 
Virginia, as the proprietary Company was ex- 
tinct and consequently the patent with it, must 
be looked for in the line of proclamations. 

I am not fond of quoting these old remains 
of former arrogance, but as we must begin some- 
where, and as the states have agreed to regulate 
the right of each state to territory, by the con- 
dition each stood in with the Crown of England 
at the commencement of the Revolution, we have 


no other rule to go by; and any rule which can 
be agreed on is better than none. 

From the proclamation then of 1763, the 
western limits of Virginia, as a province under 
the Crown of England are described so as not to 
extend beyond the heads of any of the rivers 
which empty themselves into the Atlantic, and 
consequently the limits did not pass over the Alle- 
ghany Mountains. 

The following is an extract from the proc- 
lamation of 1763, so far as respects boundary: 

And whereas, it is just and reasonable and essential 
to our interest, and the security of our colonies, that the 
several nations or tribes of Indians, with whom we are 
connected, and who live under our protection, should 
not be molested or disturbed in the possession of such 
parts of our dominions and territories, as, not having 
been ceded to, or purchased by us, are reserved to them 
or any of them as their hunting grounds; we do there- 
fore, with the advice of our privy council, declare it 
to be our royal will and pleasure that no governor, or 
commander-in-chief, in any of our colonies of Quebec, 
East Florida, or West Florida, do presume upon any 
pretense whatever, to grant warrants of survey, or 
pass any patents for lands beyond the bounds of their 
respective governments, as described in their commis- 
sions: as ALSO that no governor or commander-in-chief 
of our colonies or plantations in America, do presume, 
for the present, and until our further pleasure be 
known, to grant warrants of survey or pass patents 
for any lands beyond the heads or sources of any of the 
rivers which fall into the Atlantic Ocean, from the west 

VIII-18 155 


or northwest^ or upon any lands whatever, which not 
having been ceded to or purchased by us, as aforesaid, 
are reserved unto the said Indians, or any of them. 

And we do further declare it to be our royal will 
and pleasure, for the present, as aforesaid, to reserve 
under our sovereignty, protection, and dominion, for 
the use of the said Indians, all lands and territories, not 
included within the hmits of our said three new gov- 
ernments, or within the limits of the territory granted 
to the Hudson's Bay Company ; as also, all the lands and 
territories lying to the westward of the sources of the 
rivers, which fall into the sea from the west and north- 
west, as aforesaid; and we do hereby strictly forbid on 
pain of our displeasure, all our loving subjects from 
making any purchases or settlements whatever, or tak- 
ing possession of any of the lands above reserved, with- 
out our especial leave and license for that purpose first 

And we do further strictly enjoin and require all 
persons whatever, who have either wilfully or inad- 
vertently seated themselves upon any lands within the 
countries above described, or upon any other lands, 
which, not having been ceded to, or purchased by us, 
are still reserved to the said Indians, as aforesaid, forth- 
with to remove themselves from such settlements. 

It is easy for us to understand, that the fre- 
quent and plausible mention of the Indians was 
only a pretext to create an idea of the humanity 
of government. The object and intention of the 
proclamation was the western boundary, which is 
here signified not to extend beyond the heads of 
the rivers: and these, then, are the western Kmits 


which Virginia had as a province under the 
Crown of Britain. 

And agreeable to the intention of this proc- 
lamation, and the limits described thereby, Lord 
Hillsborough, then Secretary of State in Eng- 
land, addressed an official letter, of the thirty-first 
of July, 1770, to Lord Bottetourt, at that time 
Governor of Virginia, which letter was laid be- 
fore the Council of Virginia by Mr. President 
Nelson, and by him answered on the eighteenth 
of October, in the same year, of which the follow- 
ing are extracts: 

On the evening of the day Your Lordship's letter 
to the governor was delivered to me (as it contains mat- 
ters of great variety and importance) it was read in 
council, and, together with the several papers inclosed, 
it hath been maturely considered, and I now trouble 
Your Lordship with theirs as well as my own opinion 
upon the subject of them. 

We do not presume to say to whom our gracious 
sovereign shall grant the vacant lands, and with 
regard to the establishment of a new colony on the back 
of Virginia, it is a subject of too great political im- 
portance for me to presume to give an opinion upon ; 
however, permit me, My Lord, to observe, that when that 
part of the country shall become sufficiently populated 
it may be a wise and prudent measure. 

On the death of Lord Bottetourt, Lord Dun- 
more was appointed to the government, and he, 
either from ignorance of the subject or other 



motives, made a grant of some lands on the Ohio 
to certain of his friends and favorites, which 
produced the following letter from Lord Dart- 
mouth, who succeeded Lord Hillsborough as Sec- 
retary of State: 

I think fit to inclose Your Lordship a copy of Lord 
Hillsborough's letter to Lord Bottetourt, of the thirty- 
first of July, 1770, the receipt of which was acknowl- 
edged by Mr. President Nelson, a few days before Lord 
Bottetourt's death, and appears by his answer to it, to 
have been laid before the council. That board, therefore, 
could not be ignorant of what has passed here upon 
Mr. Walpole's application, nor of the King's express 
command, contained in Lord Hillsborough's letter, that 
no lands should be granted beyond the limits of the 
royal proclamation of 1763, until the King's further 
pleasure was signified ; and I have only to observe, that 
it must have been a very extraordinary neglect in them 
not to have informed Your Lordship of that letter and 
those orders. 

On these documents I shall make no remarks. 
They are their own evidence, and show what the 
limits of Virginia were while a British province; 
and as there was then no other authority by which 
they could be fixed, and as the grant to the Lon- 
don Company could not be a grant to any but 
themselves, and of consequence ceased to be when 
they ceased to exist, it remained a matter of 
choice in the Crown, on its re-assumption of the 
lands, to limit or divide them into separate 
governments, as it judged best, and from which 


there was not, and could not, in the order of gov- 
ernment, be any appeal. Neither was Vii'ginia, 
as a province, affected by it, because the moneys, 
in any case, arising from the sale of lands, did 
not go into her treasury; and whether to the 
Crown or to the proprietors was to her indiffer- 
ent. And it is likewise evident, from the secre- 
tary's letter, and the president's answer, that it 
was in contemplation to lay out a new colony on 
the back of Virginia, between the Alleghany 
Mountains and the Ohio. 

Having thus gone through the several char- 
ters, or grants, and their relation to each other, 
and shown that Virginia cannot stand in succes- 
sion to a private grant, which has been extinct 
for upwards of one hundred and fifty years — and 
that the western limits of Virginia, at the com- 
mencement of the Revolution, were at the heads 
of the rivers emptying themselves into the At- 
lantic, none of which are beyond the Alleghany 
Mountains; I now proceed to the second part, 

The reasonableness of her claims. 

Virginia, as a British province, stood in a dif- 
ferent situation with the Crown of England to 
any of the other provinces, because she had no 
ascertained hmits, but such as arose from laying 



off new provinces and the proclamation of 1763. 
For the same name, Virginia, as I have before 
mentioned, was the general name of all the coun- 
try, and the dominion out of which the several 
governments were laid off: and, in strict pro- 
priety, conformable to the origin of names, the 
province of Virginia was taken out of the domin- 
ion of Virginia. For the term, dominion, could 
not appertain to the province, which retained the 
name of Virginia, but the Crown, and from 
thence was applied to the whole country, and sig- 
nified its being an appendage to the Crown of 
England, as they say now, "our dominion of 

It is not possible to suppose there could exist 
an idea that Virginia, as a British province, was 
to be extended to the South Sea, at the distance 
of three thousand miles. The dominion, as ap- 
pertaining at that time to the Crown, might be 
claimed to extend so far, but as a province the 
thought was not conceivable, nor the practise pos- 

And it is more than probable, that the de- 
ception made use of to obtain the patent of 1609, 
by representing the South Sea to be near where 
the Alleghany Mountains are, was one cause of 
its becoming extinct ; and it is worthy of remark- 


ing, that no history (at least that I have met 
with) mentions any dispute or litigation, between 
the Crown and the Company, in consequence of 
the extinction of the patent, and the re-assump- 
tion of the lands ; and, therefore, the negative evi- 
dence corroborating with the positive, makes it as 
certain as such a case can possibly be, that either 
the Company received a compensation for the 
patent, or quitted it quietly, ashamed of the im- 
position they had practised, and their subsequent 

Men are not inclined to give up a claim where 
there is any ground to contend upon, and the 
silence in which the patent expired is a pre- 
sumptive proof that its fate, from whatever 
cause, was just. 

There is one general policy which seems to 
have prevailed with the English in laying off new 
governments, which was, not to make them larger 
than their own country, that they might the easier 
hold them manageable: this was the case with 
everyone except Canada, the extension of whose 
limits was for the politic purpose of recognizing 
new acquisitions of territory, not immediately 
convenient for colonization. 

But, in order to give this matter a chance 
through all its cases, I will admit what no man 



can suppose, which is, that there is an Enghsh 
charter that fixes Virginia to extend from the 
Atlantic to the South Sea, and contained within 
a due west hne, set off two hundred miles below 
Cape Comfort, and a northwest line, set off two 
hundred miles above it. Her side, then, on the 
Atlantic (according to an explanation given in 
Mr. Bradford's paper of Sept. 29, 1779, by an 
advocate for the Virginia claims) will be four 
hundred miles; her side to the south three thou- 
sand; her side to the west four thousand; and her 
northwest line about five thousand ; and the quan- 
tity of land contained within these dimensions will 
be almost four thousand millions of acres, which 
is more than ten times the quantity contained 
within the present United States, and above an 
hundred times greater than the Kingdom of Eng- 

To reason on a case like this, is such a waste 
of time, and such an excess of folly, that it ought 
not to be reasoned upon. It is impossible to sup- 
pose that any patent to private persons could be 
so intentionally absurd, and the claim grounded 
thereon, is as wild as anything the imagination of 
man ever conceived. 

But if, as I before mentioned, there was a 
charter which bore such an explanation, and Vir- 


ginia stood in succession to it, what would that 
be to us, any more than the will of Alexander, had 
he taken it into his head to have bequeathed away 
the world? Such a charter, or grant, must have 
been obtained by imposition and a false repre- 
sentation of the country, or granted in error, or 
both ; and in any of, or all these cases, the United 
States must reject the matter as something they 
cannot know, for the merits wiU not bear an argu- 
ment, and the pretension of right stands upon no 
better ground. 

Our case is an original one; and many mat- 
ters attending it must be determined on their 
own merits and reasonableness. The territory of 
the rest of the states is, in general, within known 
bounds of moderate extent, and the quota which 
each state is to furnish toward the expense and 
service of the war, must be ascertained upon some 
rule of comparison. The number of inhabitants 
of each state formed the first rule; and it was 
naturally supposed that those numbers bore 
nearly the same proportion to each other, which 
the territory of each state did. Virginia on this 
scale, would be about one fifth larger than Penn- 
sylvania, which would be as much dominion as 
any state could manage with happiness and con- 



When I first began this subject, my intention 
was to be extensive on the merits, and concise on 
the matter of the right; instead of which, I have 
been extensive on the matter of right, and concise 
on the merits of reasonableness: and this altera- 
tion in my design arose, consequentially, from 
the nature of the subject; for as a reasonable 
thing the claim can be supported by no argu- 
ment, and therefore, needs none to refute it; but 
as there is a strange propensity in mankind to 
shelter themselves under the sanction of right, 
however unreasonable that supposed right may 
be, I found it most conducive to the interest of 
the case, to show, that the right stands upon no 
better grounds than the reason. And shall there- 
fore proceed to make some observations on the 
consequences of the claim. 

The claim being unreasonable in itself, and 
standing on no ground of right, but such 
as, if true, must, from the quarter it is drawn, 
be offensive, has a tendency to create disgust, 
and sour the minds of the rest of the states. 
Those lands are capable, under the management 
of the United States, of repaying the charges of 
the war, and some of them, as I shall hereafter 
show, may, I presume, be made an immediate 
advantage of. 


I distinguish three different descriptions of 
land in America at the commencement of the 
Revolution. Proprietary or chartered lands, as 
was the case in Pennsylvania; crown lands, 
within the described limits of any of the Crown 
governments; and crown residuary lands, that 
were wdthout or beyond the limits of any prov- 
ince; and those last were held in reserve whereon 
to erect new governments, and lay out new 
provinces ; as appears to have been the design by 
Lord Hillsborough's letter, and the president's 
answer, wherein he says, "with respect to the 
establishment of a new colony on the back of 
Virginia, it is a subject of too great political 
importance for me to presume to give an opinion 
upon ; however, permit me. My Lord, to observe, 
that when that part of the country shall become 
populated, it may be a wise and prudent 

The expression is, a '"^ new colony on the hack 
of Virginia; " and referred to lands between the 
heads of the rivers and the Ohio. This is a proof 
that those lands were not considered within, but 
beyond the limits of Virginia, as a colony; and 
the other expression in the letter is equally de- 
scriptive, namely, " We do not presume to say, 
to whom our Gracious Sovereign shall grant his 



vacant lands." Certainly then, the same right, 
which, at that time rested in the Crown, rests now 
in the more supreme authority of the United 
States; and therefore, addressing the president's 
letter to the circumstances of the Revolution, it 
will run thus: 

" We do not presume to say to whom the 
sovereign United States shall grant their vacant 
lands, and with respect to the settlement of a 
new colony on the hack of Virginia, it is a matter 
of too much political importance for me to give 
an opinion upon ; however, permit me to observe, 
that when that part of the country shall become 
populated it may be a wise and prudent meas- 

It must occur to every person, on reflection, 
that those lands are too distant to be within the 
government of any of the present states; and, I 
may presimie to suppose, that were a calculation 
justly made, Virginia has lost more by the de- 
crease of taxables, than she has gained by what 
lands she has made sale of; therefore, she is not 
only doing the rest of the states wrong in point 
of equity, but herself and them an injury in 
point of strength, service, and revenue. 

It is only the United States, and not any 
single state, that can lay off new states, and in- 


corporate them In the Union by representation; 
therefore, the situation which the settlers on 
those lands will be in, under the assumed right 
of Virginia, will be hazardous and distressing, 
and they will feel themselves at last like the aliens 
to the Commonwealth of Israel, their habitations 
unsafe and their title precarious. 

And when men reflect on that peace, har- 
mony, quietude, and security, which are neces- 
sary to prosperity, especially in making new set- 
tlements, and think that when the war shall be 
ended, their happiness and safety will depend 
on a union with the states, and not a scattered 
people, unconnected with, and pohtically un- 
known to the rest, they will feel but little inclina- 
tion to put themselves in a situation, which, how- 
ever sohtary and recluse it may appear at pres- 
ent, will then be uncertain and unsafe, and their 
troubles will have to begin where those of the 
United States shall end. 

It is probable that some of the inhabitants of 
Virginia may be inclined to suppose that the 
writer of this, by taking up the subject in the 
manner he has done, is arguing unfriendly 
against their interest. To which he wishes to 

That the most extraordinary part of the 



whole is, that Virginia should countenance such 
a claim. For it is worthy of observing, that, 
from the beginning of the contest with Britain, 
and long after, there was not a people in Amer- 
ica who discovered, through all the variety and 
multiphcity of public business, a greater fund 
of true wisdom, fortitude, and disinterestedness, 
than the then colony of Virginia. They were 
loved — they were reverenced. Their investiga- 
tion of the assumed rights of Britain had a 
sagacity which was uncommon. Their reason- 
ings were piercing, difficult to be equaled and 
impossible to be refuted, and their public spirit 
was exceeded by none. But since this unfortu- 
nate land scheme has taken place, their powers 
seem to be absorbed; a torpor has overshaded 
them, and everyone asks. What is become of 

It seldom happens that the romantic schemes 
of extensive dominion are of any service to a 
government, and never to a people. They assur- 
edly end at last in loss, trouble, division and dis- 
appointment. And was even the title of Vir- 
ginia good, and the claim admissible, she would 
derive more lasting and real benefit by partici- 
pating in it, than by attempting the manage- 
ment of an object so infinitely beyond her reach. 


Her share with the rest, under the supremacy of 
the United States, which is the only authority 
adequate to the purpose, would be worth more 
to her than what the whole would produce under 
the management of herself alone. And that for 
several reasons : 

1st, Because her claim not being admissible 
nor yet manageable, she cannot make a good title 
to the purchasers, and consequently can get but 
little for the lands. 

2d, Because the distance the settlers wiU be 
from her, will immediately put them out of all 
government and protection, so far, at least as 
relates to Virginia: and by this means she will 
render her frontiers a refuge to desperadoes, and 
a hiding place from justice; and the consequence 
will be perpetual unsafety to her own peace, and 
that of the neighboring states. 

3d, Because her quota of expense for carry- 
ing on the war, admitting her to engross such an 
immensity of territory, would be greater than 
she can either support or supply, and could not 
be less, upon a reasonable rule of proportion, 
than nine-tenths of the whole. And, 

4th, Because she must sooner or later relin- 
quish them; therefore to see her own interest 



wisely at first, is preferable to the alternative of 
finding it out by misfortune at last. 

I have now gone through my examination of 
the claim of Virginia, in every case which I pro- 
posed; and for several reasons, wish the lot had 
fallen to another person. But as this is a most 
important matter, in which all are interested, and 
the substantial good of Virginia not injured but 
promoted, and as few men have leisure, and still 
fewer have inclination, to go into intricate in- 
vestigation, I have at last ventured on the sub- 

The succession of the United States to the 
vacant western territory is a right they origin- 
ally set out upon; and in the pamphlet " Com- 
mon Sense," I frequently mentioned those lands 
as a national fund for the benefit of all; there- 
fore, resuming the subject where I then left off", 
I shall conclude with concisely reducing to sys- 
tem what I then only hinted. 

In my last piece, the " Crisis Extraordinary," 
I estimated the annual amount of the charge of 
war and the support of the several governments 
at two million pounds sterling, and the peace 
establishment at three quarters of a million, and, 
by a comparison of the taxes of this country 
with those of England, proved that the whole 


yearly expense to us, to defend the country, is 
but a third of what Britain would have drawn 
from us by taxes, had she succeeded in her at- 
tempt to conquer; and our peace establishment 
only an eighth part ; and likewise showed, that it 
was within the abihty of the states to carry on 
the whole of the war by taxation, without having 
recourse to any other modes or funds. To have 
a clear idea of taxation is necessary to every 
country, and the more funds we can discover and 
organize, the less will be the hope of the enemy, 
and the readier their disposition to peace, which 
it is now their interest more than ours to promote. 

I have already remarked that only the United 
States, and not any particular state, can lay off 
new states and incorporate them into the Union 
by representation; keeping, therefore, this idea 
in view, I ask, might not a substantial fund be 
quickly created by laying off a new state, so as 
to contain between twenty and thirty millions of 
acres, and opening a land office in all countries 
in Europe for hard money, and in this country 
for supplies in kind, at a certain price? 

The tract of land that seems best adapted 
to answer this purpose is contained between the 
Alleghany IVIountains and the river Ohio, as far 
north as the Pennsylvania line, thence extend- 

VII 1-18 171 


ing down the said river to the falls thereof, 
thence due south into the latitude of the North- 
Carolina line, and thence east to the Alleghany 
Mountains aforesaid. I the more readily men- 
tion this tract, because it is fighting the enemy 
with their own weapons, as it includes the same 
ground on which a new colony would have been 
erected, for the emolument of the Crown of Eng- 
land, as appears by the letters of Lords Hillsbor- 
ough and Dartmouth, had not the Revolution 
prevented its being carried into effect. 

It is probable that there may be some spots 
of private property within this tract, but to in- 
corporate them into some government will render 
them more profitable to the owners, and the con- 
dition of the scattered settlers more eligible and 
happy than at present. 

If twenty millions of acres of this new state 
be patented and sold at twenty pounds sterling 
per hundred acres, they will produce four million 
pounds sterling, which, if applied to Continental 
expenses only, will support the war for three 
years, should Britain be so unwise as to prosecute 
it against her own direct interest and against the 
interest and policy of all Europe. The several 
states will then have to raise taxes for their in- 
ternal government only, and the Continental 


taxes, as soon as the fund begins to operate, will 
lessen, and if sufficiently productive, will cease. 

Lands are the real riches of the habitable 
world, and the natural funds of America. The 
funds of other countries are, in general, artifi- 
cially constructed; the creatures of necessity and 
contrivance dependent upon credit, and always 
exposed to hazard and uncertainty. But lands 
can neither be annihilated nor lose their value; 
on the contrary, they universally rise with 
population, and rapidly so, when under the se- 
curity of effectual government. But this it is 
impossible for Virginia to give, and therefore, 
that which is capable of defraying the expenses 
of the empire, will, under the management of 
any single state, produce only a fugitive support 
to wandering individuals. 

I shall now inquire into the effects which the 
laying out of a new state, under the authority of 
the United States, will have upon Virginia. It 
is the very circumstance she ought to, and must, 
wish for, when she examines the matter in all 
its bearings and consequences. 

The present settlers beyond her reach, and 
her supposed authority over them remaining in 
herself, they will appear to her as revolters, and 
she to them as oppressors; and this will produce 



such a spirit of mutual dislike, that in a little time 
a total disagreement will take place, to the disad- 
vantage of both. But under the authority of the 
United States the matter is manageable, and 
Virginia will be eased of a disagreeable conse- 

Besides this, a sale of the lands, continentally, 
for the purpose of supporting the expense of the 
war, will save her a greater share of taxes, than 
the small sale which she could make herself, and 
the small price she could get for them would 

She would likewise have two advantages 
which no other state in the Union enjoys; first, a 
frontier state for her defense against the incur- 
sions of the Indians; and the second is, that the 
laying out and peopling a new state on the back 
of an old one, situated as she is, is doubling the 
quantity of its trade. 

The new state which is here proposed to be 
laid out, may send its exports down the Missis- 
sippi, but its imports must come through Chesa- 
peake Bay, and consequently Virginia will be- 
come the market for the new state; because, 
though there is a navigation from it, there is none 
into it, on account of the rapidity of the Missis- 



There are certain circumstances that will pro- 
duce certain events whether men think of them 
or not. The events do not depend upon think- 
ing, but are the natural consequence of acting; 
and according to the system w^hich Virginia has 
gone upon, the issue will be, that she will get in- 
volved with the back settlers in a contention 
about rights J till they dispute with their own 
claims; and, soured by the contention, will go to 
any other state for their commerce ; both of which 
may be prevented, a perfect harmony established, 
the strength of the states increased, and the ex- 
penses of the war defrayed, by settling the mat- 
ter now on the plan of a general right ; and every 
day it is delayed, the difficulty will be increased 
and the advantages lessened. 

But if it should happen, as it possibly may, 
that the war should end before the money, which 
the new state may produce, be expended, the 
remainder of the lands therein may be set apart 
to reimburse those whose houses have been burned 
by the enemy, as this is a species of suffering 
which it was impossible to prevent, because 
houses are not movable property; and it ought 
not to be that because we cannot do everything, 
that we ought not to do what we can. 

Having said this much on the subject, I think 



it necessary to remark, that the prospect of a new 
fund, so far from abating our endeavors in 
making every immediate provision for the army, 
ought to quicken us therein ; for should the states 
see it expedient to go upon the measure, it will 
be at least a year before it can be productive. I 
the more freely mention this, because there is a 
dangerous species of popularity, which, I fear, 
some men are seeking from their constituents by 
giving them grounds to believe, that if they are 
elected they will lighten the taxes; a measure 
which, in the present state of things, cannot be 
done without exposing the country to the rav- 
ages of the enemy by disabling the army from 
defending it. 

Where knowledge is a duty, ignorance is a 
crime ; and if any man whose duty it was to know 
better, has encouraged such an expectation, he 
has either deceived himself or them: besides, no 
country can be defended without expense, and 
let any man compare his portion of temporary 
inconveniences arising from taxation with the 
real distresses of the army for want of supplies, 
and the difference is not only sufficient to strike 
him dumb, but make him thankful that worse 
consequences have not followed. 

In advancing this doctrine, I speak with an 


honest freedom to the country; for as it is their 
good to be defended, so it is their interest to pro- 
vide that defense, at least tiU other funds can be 

As the laying out new states will some time 
or other be the business of the country, and as it 
is yet a new business to us, and as the influence of 
the war has scarcely afforded leisure for reflect- 
ing on distant circumstances, I shall thi'ow to- 
gether a few hints for facilitating that measure 
whenever it may be proper for adopting it. 

The United States now standing on the line 
of sovereignty, the vacant territory is their prop- 
erty collectively, but the persons by whom it may 
hereafter be peopled will also have an equal right 
with om'selves ; and therefore, as new states shall 
be laid off and incorporated with the present, 
they will become partakers of the remaining ter- 
ritory with us who are already in possession. 
And this consideration ought to heighten the 
value of lands to new emigrants: because, in 
making the purchases, they not only gain an im- 
mediate property, but become initiated into the 
right and heirship of the states to a property in 
reserve, which is an additional advantage to what 
any purchasers under the late Government of 
England enjoyed. 



The setting off the boundary of any new 
state will naturally be the first step, and as it 
must be supposed not to be peopled at the time 
it is laid off, a constitution must be formed by 
the United States, as the rule of government in 
any new state, for a certain term of years (per- 
haps ten) or until the state becomes peopled to 
a certain number of inhabitants ; after which, the 
whole and sole right of modeling their govern- 
ment to rest with themselves. 

A question may arise, whether a new state 
should immediately possess an equal right with 
the present ones in all cases which may come be- 
fore Congress. 

This, experience will best determine; but at 
a first view of the matter it appears thus: that it 
ought to be immediately incorporated into the 
Union on the ground of a family right, such a 
state standing in the line of a younger child of 
the same stock; but as new emigrants will have 
something to learn when they first come to 
America, and a new state requiring aid rather 
than capable of giving it, it might be most con- 
venient to admit its immediate representation 
into Congress, there to sit, hear and debate on all 
questions and matters, but not to vote on any till 
after the expiration of seven years. 


I shall in this place take the opportunity of 
renewing a hint which I formerly threw out in 
the pamphlet " Common Sense," and which the 
several states will, sooner or later, see the con- 
venience if not the necessity of adopting; which 
is, that of electing a Continental convention, for 
the purpose of forming a Continental constitu- 
tion, defining and describing the powers and 
authority of Congress. 

Those of entering into treaties, and making 
peace, they naturally possess, in behalf of the 
states, for their separate as well as their united 
good, but the internal control and dictatorial 
powers of Congress are not sufficiently defined, 
and appear to be too much in some cases and too 
little in others; and therefore, to have them 
marked out legally will give additional energy 
to the whole, and a new confidence to the several 





A LONDON translation of an original work 
-^ ^ in French, by the Abbe Raynal, which 
treats of the Revolution of North America, hav- 
ing been re-printed in Philadelphia and other 
parts of the continent, and as the distance at 
which the Abbe is placed from the American 
theater of war and politics, has occasioned him to 
mistake several facts, or misconceive the causes or 
principles by which they were produced, the fol- 
lowing tract, therefore, is published with a view 
to rectify them, and prevent even accidental er- 
rors from intermixing with history, under the 
sanction of time and silence. 

The editor of the London edition has entitled 
it, "The Revolution of America, by the Abbe 
Raynal/'' and the American printers have fol- 
lowed the example. But I have understood, 
and I believe my information just, that the piece, 
which is more properly reflections on the Revolu- 
tion, was unfairly purloined from the printer 

* "Letter to the Abb6 Raynal, on the Affairs of North Amer- 
ica: in which the Mistakes in the Abba's account of the Revolu- 
tion of America are Corrected and Cleared up." — Ed. 



whom the Abbe employed, or from the manu- 
script copy, and is only part of a larger work 
then in the press, or preparing for it. The per- 
son who procured it, appears to have been an 
Enghsliman, and though, in an advertisement 
prefixed to the London edition, he has endeav- 
ored to gloss over the embezzlement with pro- 
fessions of patriotism, and to soften it with high 
encomiums on the author, yet the action in any 
view in which it can be placed, is illiberal and 

In the course of his travels, (says he), the trans- 
lator happily succeeded in obtaining a copy of this 
exquisite Httle piece which has not made its appearance 
from any press. He pubHshes a French edition, in favor 
of those who feel its eloquent reasoning more forcibly 
in its native language, at the same time with the 
following translation of it: in which he has been de- 
sirous, perhaps in vain, that all the warmth, the 
grace, the strength, the dignity of the original, should 
not be lost. And he flatters himself, that the indul- 
gence of the illustrious historian will not be wanting 
to a man, who, of his own motion, has taken the liberty 
to give this composition to the public, only from a 
strong persuasion, that its momentous argument will 
be useful in a critical conjuncture, to that country 
which he loves with an ardor that can be exceeded only 
by the nobler flame, which burns in the bosom of the 
philanthropic author, for the freedom and happiness 
of all the countries upon earth. 

This plausibility of setting off a dishonor- 



able action, may pass for patriotism and sound 
principles with those who do not enter into its 
demerits, and whose interest is not injured nor 
their happiness affected thereby. But it is more 
than probable, notwithstanding the declarations 
it contains, that the copy was obtained for the 
sake of profiting by the sale of a new and popu- 
lar work, and that the professions are but a garb 
to the fraud. 

It may with propriety be marked, that in all 
countries where literature is protected, and it 
never can flourish where it is not, the works of an 
author are his legal property ; and to treat letters 
in any other light than this, is to banish them 
from the country, or strangle them in the birth. 
— The embezzlement from the Abbe Raynal, was, 
it is true, conmiitted by one country upon an- 
other, and therefore shows no defect in the laws 
of either. But it is nevertheless a breach of civil 
manners and literary justice: neither can it be 
any apology, that because the countries are at 
war, literature shall be entitled to depredation.* 

* The state of literature in America must one day become a 
subject of legislative consideration. Hitherto it hath been a dis- 
interested volunteer in the service of the Revolution, and no man 
thought of profits: but when peace shall give time and opportimity 
for study, the country will deprive itself of the honor and service 
of letters and the improvement of science, unless sufficient laws 
are made to prevent depredations on literary property. It is well 



But the forestalling the Abbe's publication by 
liOndon editions, both in French and English, 
and thereby not only defrauding him and throw- 
ing an expensive publication on his hands by an- 
ticipating the sale, are only the smaller injuries 
which such conduct may occasion. A man's 
opinions, whether written or in thought, are his 
own, until he pleases to publish them himself; 
and it is adding cruelty to injustice, to make 
him the author of what future reflection, or bet- 
ter information, might occasion him to suppress 
or amend. There are declarations and senti- 
ments in the Abbe's piece which, for my own 
part, I did not expect to find, and such as him- 
self, on a re\dsal, might have seen occasion to 
change; but the anticipated piracy efl'ectually 
prevented his having the opportunity, and pre- 
cipitated him into difficulties, which, had it not 
been for such ungenerous fraud, might not have 

This mode of making an author appear be- 
fore his time, will appear still more ungenerous, 
when we consider how very few men there are in 

worth remarking, that Russia, who but a few years ago was 
scarcely known in Europe, owes a large share of her present 
greatness to the close attention she has paid, and the wise encour- 
agement she has given, to every branch of science and learning: 
and we have almost the same instance in France, in the reign of 
Louis XIV. 



any country, who can at once, and without the 
aid of reflection and revisal, combine warm pas- 
sions with a cool temper, and the full expansion 
of the imagination with the natural and neces- 
sary gravity of judgment, so as to be rightly 
balanced within themselves, and to make a 
reader feel, fancy, and understand justly at the 
same time. To call three powers of the mind 
into action at once, in a manner that neither shall 
interrupt, and that each shall aid and invigorate 
the other, is a talent very rarely possessed. 

It often happens that the weight of an argu- 
ment is lost by the wit of setting it oiF; or the 
judgment disordered by an intemperate irrita- 
tion of the passions: yet a certain degree of ani- 
mation must be felt by the writer, and raised in 
the reader, in order to interest the attention ; and 
a sufficient scope given to the imagination, to 
enable it to create in the mind a sight of the per- 
sons, characters and circumstances of the sub- 
ject: for without these, the judgment will feel 
little or no excitement to office, and its determin- 
ations will be cold, sluggish, and imperfect. 

But if either or both of the two former are 
raised too high, or heated too much, the judgment 
will be jostled from its seat, and the whole mat- 
ter, however important in itself, will diminish 


into a pantomime of the mind, in which we create 
images that promote no other purpose than 

The Abbe's writings bear evident marks of 
that extension and rapidness of thinking and 
quickness of sensation, which of all others require 
revisal, and the more particularly so, when ap- 
plied to the Hving characters of nations or indi- 
viduals in a state of war. The least misinforma- 
tion or misconception leads to some wrong con- 
clusion, and an error believed, becomes the pro- 
genitor of others. And, as the Abbe has suffered 
some inconveniences in France, by mistaking cer- 
tain circumstances of the war, and the characters 
of the parties therein, it becomes some apology 
for him that those errors were precipitated into 
the world by the avarice of an ungenerous 



'T^O an author of such distinguished reputa- 
-^ tion as the Abbe Raynal, it might very well 
become me to apologize for the present under- 
taking; but, as to he right is the first wish of 
philosophy, and the first principle of history, he 
will, I presume, accept from me a declaration of 
my motives, which are those of doing justice, in 
preference to any complimental apology I might 
otherwise make. The Abbe, in the course of his 
work, has, in some instances, extolled without a 
reason, and wounded without a cause. He has 
given fame where it was not deserved, and with- 
held it where it was justly due; and appears to 
be so frequently in and out of temper with his 
subjects and parties, that few or none of them 
are decisively and uniformly marked. 

It is yet too soon to write the history of the 
Revolution, and whoever attempts it precipi- 
tately, will unavoidably mistake characters and 
circumstances, and involve himself in error and 
difficulty. Things, like men, are seldom under- 
stood rightly at first sight. But the Abbe is 
wrong even in the foundation of his work; that 
is, he has misconceived and mis-stated the causes 


which produced the rupture between England 
and her then colonies, and which led on, step by 
step, unstudied and uncontrived on the part of 
America, to a revolution, which has engaged the 
attention, and aifected the interest of Europe. 
To prove this, I shall bring forward a pas- 
sage, which, though placed towards the latter 
part of the Abbe's work, is more intimately con- 
nected with the beginning; and in which, speak- 
ing of the original cause of the dispute, he de- 
clares himself in the following manner: 

None, (says he), of those energetic causes, which 
have produced so many revolutions upon the globe, ex- 
isted in North America. Neither religion nor laws had 
there been outraged. The blood of martyrs or patriots 
had not there streamed from scaffolds. Morals had not 
there been insulted. Manners, customs, habits, no 
object dear to nations, had there been the sport of 
ridicule. Arbitrary power had not there torn any in- 
habitant from the arms of his family and friends, to 
drag him to a dreary dungeon. Public order had not 
been there inverted. The principles of administration 
had not been changed there ; and the maxims of govern- 
ment had there always remained the same. The whole 
question was reduced to the knowing whether the 
mother country had, or had not, a right to lay, di- 
rectly or indirectly, a slight tax upon the colonies. 

On this extraordinary passage, it may not be 

improper, in general terms, to remark, that none 

can feel like those who suffer ; and that for a man 

VITT-I4 187 


to be a competent judge of the provocatives, or 
as the Abbe styles them, the energetic causes of 
the Revolution, he must have resided at the time 
in America. 

The Abbe, in saying that the several particu- 
lars he has enumerated, did not exist in America, 
and neglecting to point out the particular period, 
in which he means they did not exist, reduces 
thereby his declaration to a nullity, by taking 
away all meaning from the passage. 

They did not exist in 1763, and they all 
existed before 1776 ; consequently as there was a 
time when they did notj and another, when they 
did exist, the time when constitutes the essence of 
the fact, and not to give it is to withhold the 
only evidence which proves the declaration right 
or wrong, and on which it must stand or fall. 
But the declaration as it now appears, unaccom- 
panied by time, has an effect in holding out to 
the world, that there was no real cause for the 
Revolution, because it denies the existence of all 
those causes, which are supposed to be justifiable, 
and which the Abbe styles energetic. 

I confess myself exceedingly at a loss to find 

out the time to which the Abbe alludes ; because, 

in another part of the work, in speaking of the 

Stamp Act, which was passed in 1764, he styles it 



" an usurpation of the Americans' most precious 
and sacred rights/' Consequently he here ad- 
mits the most energetic of all causes, that is, an 
usurpation of their most precious and sacred 
rights, to have existed in America twelve years 
before the Declaration of Independence, and ten 
years before the breaking out of hostilities. The 
time, therefore, in which the paragraph is true, 
must be antecedent to the Stamp Act, but as at 
that time there was no revolution, nor any idea 
of one, it consequently applies without a mean- 
ing ; and as it cannot, on the Abbe's own principle, 
be applied to any time after the Stamp Act, it is 
therefore a wandering, solitary paragraph, con- 
nected with nothing and at variance with every- 

The Stamp Act, it is true, was repealed in two 
years after it was passed, but it was immediately 
followed by one of infinitely more mischievous 
magnitude; I mean the Declaratory Act, which 
asserted the right, as it was styled, of the British 
Parliament, "to hind America in all cases what- 

If then the Stamp Act was an usurpation of 
the Americans' most precious and sacred rights, 
the Declaratory Act left them no rights at all; 
and contained the full grown seeds of the most 



despotic government ever exercised in the world. 
It placed America not only in the lowest, but in 
the basest state of vassalage; because it de- 
manded an unconditional submission in every- 
thing, or as the act expressed it, in all cases what- 
soever: and what renders this act the more offen- 
sive, is, that it appears to have been passed as an 
act of mercy ; truly then may it be said, that the 
tender mercies of the wicked are cruel. 

All the original charters from the Crown of 
England, under the faith of which the adventur- 
ers from the Old World settled in the New, were 
by this act displaced from their foundations; be- 
cause, contrary to the nature of them, which was 
that of a compact, they were now made subject 
to repeal or alteration at the mere will of one 
party only. The whole condition of America 
was thus put into the hands of the Parliament or 
Ministry, without leaving to her the least right 
in any case whatsoever. 

There is no despotism to which this iniqui- 
tous law did not extend; and though it might 
have been convenient in the execution of it, to 
have consulted manners and habits, the principle 
of the act made all tyranny legal. It stopped 
nowhere. It went to everything. It took in 
with it the whole life of a man, or if I may so 


express it, an eternity of circumstances. It is 
the nature of law to require obedience, but this 
demanded servitude; and the condition of an 
American, under the operation of it, was not 
that of a subject, but a vassal. Tyranny has 
often been established witJiout law and some- 
times against it, but the history of mankind does 
not produce another instance, in which it has 
been established by law. It is an audacious out- 
rage upon civil government, and cannot be too 
much exposed, in order to be sufficiently de- 

Neither could it be said after this, that the 
legislature of that country any longer made laws 
for this, but that it gave out commands; for 
wherein differed an act of Parliament con- 
structed on this principle, and operating in this 
manner, over an unrepresented people, from the 
orders of a military establishment? 

The Parliament of England, with respect to 
America, was not septennial but perpetual. It 
appeared to the latter a body always in being. 
Its election or expiration were to her the same 
as if its members succeeded by inheritance, or 
went out by death, or lived forever, or were 
appointed to it as a matter of office. Therefore, 
for the people of England to have any just con- 



ception of the mind of America, respecting this 
extraordinary act, they must suppose all election 
and expiration in that country to cease forever, 
and the present Parliament, its heirs, etc. to be 
perpetual; in this case, I ask, what would the 
most clamorous of them think, were an act to be 
passed, declaring the right of such a Parliament 
to bind them in all cases whatsoever? For this 
word whatsoever would go as effectually to their 
Magna Charta, Bill of Rights, trial by juries, etc. 
as it went to the charters and forms of govern- 
ment in America. 

I am persuaded, that the gentleman to whom 
I address these remarks, will not, after the pass- 
ing of this act, say, " that the principles of ad- 
ministration had not been changed in America, 
and that the maxims of government had there 
been always the same" For here is, in principle, 
a total overthrow of the whole ; and not a subver- 
sion only, but an anniliilation of the foundation 
of liberty and absolute domination established 
in its stead. 

The Abbe likewise states the case exceedingly 
wrong and injuriously, when he says, that " the 
whole question was reduced to the knowing 
whether the mother country had, or had not, a 
right to lay, directly or indirectly, a slight tax 


upon the colonies." This was not the whole of 
the question ; neither was the quantity of the tax 
the object either to the Ministry or to the Ameri- 
cans. It was the principle, of which the tax 
made but a part, and the quantity still less, that 
formed the ground on which America resisted. 

The tax on tea, which is the tax here alluded 
to, was neither more nor less than an experiment 
to establish the practise of a declaratory law 
upon; modeled into the more fashionable phrase 
of the universal supremacy of Parliament. For 
until this time the declaratory law had lain dor- 
mant, and the framers of it had contented them- 
selves with barely declaring an opinion. 

Therefore the whole question with America, 
in the opening of the dispute, was, shall we be 
bound in all cases whatsoever by the British Par- 
liament, or shall we not? For submission to the 
tea or tax act implied an acknowledgment of 
the Declaratory Act, or, in other words, of the 
universal supremacy of Parliament, which as 
they never intended to do, it was necessary they 
should oppose it, in its first stage of execution. 

It is probable the Abbe has been led into this 
mistake by perusing detached pieces in some of 
the American newspapers; for, in a case where 
all were interested, everyone had a right to give 



his opinion; and there were many, who, with the 
best intentions, did not choose the best, nor in- 
deed the true ground, to defend their cause upon. 
They felt themselves right by a general impulse, 
without being able to separate, analyze, and ar- 
range the parts. 

I am somewhat unwilUng to examine too 
minutely into the whole of this extraordinary 
passage of the Abbe, lest I should appear to 
treat it with severity ; otherwise I could show that 
not a single declaration is justly founded: for in- 
stance, the reviving an obsolete act of the reign 
of Henry VIII and fitting it to the Americans, 
by authority of which they were to be seized and 
brought from America to England, and there 
imprisoned and tried for any supposed offenses, 
was, in the worst sense of the words, to tear them, 
by the arbitrary power of Parliament^ from the 
arms of their families and friends^ and drag 
them not only to dreary but distant dungeons. 
Yet this act was contrived some years before the 
breaking out of hostilities. And again, though 
the blood of martyrs and patriots had not 
streamed on the scaiFolds, it streamed in the 
streets, in the massacre of the inhabitants of Bos- 
ton, by the British soldiery in the year 1770. 

Had the Abbe said that the causes which pro- 


duced the Revolution in America were originally 
different from those which produced revolu- 
tions in other parts of the globe, he had been 
right. Here the value and quality of liberty, the 
nature of government, and the dignity of man, 
were known and understood, and the attachment 
of the Americans to these principles produced the 
Revolution, as a natural and almost unavoidable 
consequence. They had no particular family to 
set up or pull down. Nothing of personality was 
incorporated with their cause. They started 
even-handed with each other, and went no faster 
into the several stages of it, than they were driven 
by the unrelenting and imperious conduct of 
Britain. Nay, in the last act, the Declaration of 
Independence, they had nearly been too late ; for 
had it not been declared at the exact time it was, 
I see no period in their affairs since, in which 
it could have been declared with the same effect, 
and probably not at all. 

But the object being formed before the re- 
verse of fortune took place, that is, before the 
operations of the gloomy campaign of 1776, 
their honor, their interest, their everything, 
called loudly on them to maintain it; and that 
glow of thought and energy of heart, which 
even a distant prospect of independence inspires, 



gave confidence to their hopes, and resolution to 
their conduct, which a state of dependence could 
never have reached. They looked forward to 
happier days and scenes of rest, and qualified 
the hardships of the campaign by contemplating 
the establishment of their new-born system. 

If, on the other hand, we take a review of 
what part Britain has acted, we shall find every- 
thing which ought to make a nation blush — the 
most vulgar abuse, accompanied by that species 
of haughtiness which distinguishes the hero of a 
mob from the character of a gentleman. It was 
equally as much from her manners as from her 
injustice that she lost the colonies. By the lat- 
ter she provoked their principles, by the former 
she wore out their temper; and it ought to be 
held out as an example to the world, to show 
how necessary it is to conduct the business of 
government with civility. In short, other revo- 
lutions may have originated in caprice, or gen- 
erated in ambition ; but here, the most unoffend- 
ing humility was tortured into rage, and the 
infancy of existence made to weep. 

A union so extensive, continued and deter- 
mined, suffering with patience and never in de- 
spair, could not have been produced by common 
causes. It must be something capable of reach- 


ing the whole soul of man and arming it with 
perpetual energy. It is in vain to look for 
precedents among the revolutions of former 
ages, to find out, by comparison, the causes of 

The spring, the progress, the object, the con- 
sequences, nay, the men, their habits of thinking, 
and all the circumstances of the country, are 
different. Those of other nations are, in general, 
little more than the history of their quarrels. 
They are marked by no important character in 
the annals of events; mixed in the mass of gen- 
eral matters, they occupy but a common page; 
and while the chief of the successful partisans 
stepped into power, the plundered multitude sat 
down and sorrowed. Few, very few of them are 
accompanied with reformation, either in govern- 
ment or manners; many of them with the most 
consummate profligacy. Triumph on the one 
side and misery on the other were the only events. 
Pains, punishments, torture, and death were 
made the business of mankind, until compassion, 
the fairest associate of the heart, was driven from 
its place, and the eye, accustomed to continual 
cruelty, could behold it without offense. 

But as the principles of the present Revolu- 
tion differed from those which preceded it, so 



likewise did the conduct of America both in gov- 
ernment and war. Neither the foul finger of 
disgrace nor the bloody hand of vengeance has 
hitherto put a blot upon her fame. Her victories 
have received lustre from a greatness of lenity; 
and her laws have been permitted to slumber, 
where they might justly be awakened to punish. 
War, so much the trade of the world, has here 
been only the business of necessity; and when 
the necessity shall cease, her very enemies must 
confess, that as she drew the sword in her just 
defense, she used it without cruelty, and sheathed 
it without revenge. 

As it is not my design to extend these remarks 
to a history, I shall now take my leave of this 
passage of the Abbe, with an observation, which, 
until something unfolds itself to convince me 
otherwise, I cannot avoid believing to be true; — 
which is, that it was the fixed determination of 
the British Cabinet to quarrel with America at 
all events. 

They (the members who composed the Cab- 
inet) had no doubt of success, if they could once 
bring it to the issue of a battle, and they expected 
from a conquest, what they could neither propose 
with decency, nor hope for by negotiation. The 
charters and constitutions of the colonies were 


become to them matters of offense, and their 
rapid progress in property and population were 
disgustingly beheld as the growing and natural 
means of independence. They saw no way to 
retain them long but by reducing them in time. 
A conquest would at once have made them both 
lords and landlords ; and put them in the posses- 
sion both of the revenue and the rental. The 
whole trouble of government would have ceased 
in a victory, and a final end put to remonstrance 
and debate. 

The experience of the Stamp Act had taught 
them how to quarrel with the advantages of 
cover and convenience, and they had nothing to 
do but to renew the scene, and put contention 
into motion. They hoped for a rebelhon, and 
they made one. They expected a declaration of 
independence, and they were not disappointed. 
But after this, they looked for victory, and they 
obtained a defeat. 

If this be taken as the generating cause of 
the contest, then is every part of the conduct 
of the British Ministry consistent from the com- 
mencement of the dispute, until the signing the 
Treaty of Paris, after which, conquest becoming 
doubtful, they retreated to negotiation, and were 
again defeated. 



Though the Abbe possesses and displays 
great powers of genius, and is a master of style 
and language, he seems not to pay equal atten- 
tion to the office of an historian. His facts are 
coldly and carelessly stated. They neither in- 
form the reader nor interest him. Many of them 
are erroneous, and most of them are defective and 
obscure. It is undoubtedly both an ornament 
and a useful addition to history, to accompany 
it with maxims and reflections. They afford hke- 
wise an agreeable change to the style, and a more 
diversified manner of expression; but it is abso- 
lutely necessary that the root from whence they 
spring, or the foundation on which they are 
raised, should be well attended to, which in this 
work is not. The Abbe hastens through his nar- 
rations as if he was glad to get from them, that 
he may enter the more copious field of eloquence 
and imagination. 

The actions of Trenton and Princeton, in 
New Jersey, in December 1776, and January 
f oUovnng, on which the fate of America stood for 
a while tremblmg on the point of suspense, and 
from which the most important consequences fol- 
lowed, are comprised within a single paragraph, 
faintly conceived, and barren of character, cir- 
cumstance and description. 


On the twenty-fifth of December, (says the Abbe), 
they (the Americans) crossed the Delaware, and fell ac- 
cidentally upon Trenton, which was occupied by fifteen 
hundred of the twelve thousand Hessians, sold in so 
base a manner by their avaricious master, to the King 
of Great Britain. This corps was massacred, taken, 
or dispersed. Eight days after, three English regi- 
ments were, in like manner, driven from Princeton, but 
after having better supported their reputation than 
the foreign troops in their pay. 

This is all the account which is given of these 
interesting events. The Abbe has preceded them 
by two or three pages on the military operations 
of both armies, from the time of General Howe's 
arriving before New York from Halifax, and 
the vast reinforcements of British and foreign 
troops with Lord Howe from England. But in 
these, there is so much mistake, and so many 
omissions, that, to set them right, must be the 
business of a history and not of a letter. 

The action of Long Island is but barely 
hinted at, and the operations at the White Plains 
wholly omitted; as are likewise the attack and 
loss of Fort Washington, with a garrison of about 
two thousand five hundred men, and the precipi- 
tate evacuation of Fort Lee, in consequence 
thereof: which losses were in a great measure 
the cause of the retreat through the Jerseys to 
the Delaware, a distance of about ninety miles. 



Neither is the manner of the retreat described; 
which, from the season of the year, the nature of 
the country, the nearness of the two armies 
(sometimes within sight and shot of each other, 
for such a length of way) the rear of the one 
employed in pulling down bridges, and the van 
of the other in building them up, must necessarily 
be accompanied with many interesting circum- 

It was a period of distresses. A crisis rather 
of danger than of hope. There is no description 
can do it justice; and even the actors in it, look- 
ing back upon the scene, are surprised how they 
got through; and at a loss to account for those 
powers of the mind, and springs of animation, 
by which they withstood the force of accumulated 

It was expected, that the time for which the 
army was enlisted, would carry the campaign so 
far into the winter, that the severity of the sea- 
son, and the consequent condition of the roads, 
would prevent any material operation of the 
enemy, until the new army could be raised for 
the next year. And I mention it, as a matter 
worthy of attention, by all future historians, that 
the movements of the American Army, until the 
attack of the Hessian post at Trenton, the 


twenty-sixth of December, are to be considered 
as operating to effect no other principal purpose 
than delay, and to wear away the campaign 
under all the disadvantages of an unequal force, 
with as little misfortune as possible. 

But the loss of the garrison at Fort Washing- 
ton on the sixteenth of November, and the ex- 
piration of the time of a considerable part of the 
army, so early as the thirtieth of the same month, 
and which was to be followed by almost daily 
expirations afterwards, made retreat the only 
final expedient. To these circumstances may be 
added the forlorn and destitute condition of the 
few that remained ; for the garrison of Fort Lee, 
which composed almost the whole of the retreat, 
had been obliged to abandon it so instantaneous- 
ly that every article of stores and baggage was 
left behind, and in this destitute condition, with- 
out tent or blanket, and without any other uten- 
sils to dress their provision than what they 
procured by the way, they performed a march of 
about ninety miles, and had the address and 
management to prolong it to the space of 
nineteen days. 

By this unexpected or rather unthought-of 
turn of affairs, the country was in an instant 
surprised into confusion, and found an enemy 
viii-is 203 


within its bowels, without an army to oppose him. 
There were no succors to be had, but from the 
free-will offering of the inhabitants. All was 
choice, and every man reasoned for himself. 

It was in this situation of affairs, equally cal- 
culated to confound or to inspire, that the gentle- 
man, the merchant, the farmer, the tradesman 
and the laborer mutually turned from all the 
conveniences of home, to perform the duties of 
private soldiers, and undergo the severities of 
a winter campaign. The delay so judiciously 
contrived on the retreat, afforded time for the 
volunteer reinforcements to join General Wash- 
ington on the Delaware. 

The Abbe is likewise wrong in saying, that 
the American Army fell accidentally on Trenton. 
It was the very object for which General Wash- 
ington crossed the Delaware in the dead of the 
night and in the midst of snow, storms, and ice; 
and which he immediately re-crossed with his 
prisoners, as soon as he had accomplished his 
purpose. Neither was the intended enterprise a 
secret to the enemy, information having been sent 
of it by letter, from a British officer at Princeton, 
to Colonel Rolle [Rahl, or Rail], who com- 
manded the Hessians at Trenton, which letter 
was afterwards found by the Americans. Never- 


theless the post was completely surprised. A 
small circmnstance, which had the appearance of 
mistake on the part of the Americans, led to a 
more capital and real mistake on the part of 

The case was this. A detachment of twenty 
or thirty Americans had been sent across the 
river, from a post a few miles above, by an officer 
unacquainted with the intended attack; these 
were met by a body of Hessians on the night to 
which the information pointed, which was Christ- 
mas night, and repulsed. Nothing further ap- 
pearing, and the Hessians mistaking this for the 
advanced party, supposed the enterprise discon- 
certed, which at that time was not begun, and 
under this idea returned to their quarters; so 
that, what might have raised an alarm, and 
brought the Americans into an ambuscade, served 
to take off the force of an information, and pro- 
mote the success of the enterprise. Soon after 
daylight, General Washington entered the town, 
and after a little opposition, made himself master 
of it, with upwards of nine hundred prisoners. 

This combination of equivocal circumstances, 
falling within what the Abbe styles, ^Hhe wide 
empire of chance" would have afforded a fine 
field for thought, and I wish, for the sake of 



that elegance of reflection he is so capable of 
using, that he had known it. 

But the action at Princeton was accompanied 
by a still greater embarrassment of matters, and 
followed by more extraordinary consequences. 
The Americans, by a happy stroke of general- 
ship, in this instance, not only deranged and de- 
feated all the plans of the British, in the intended 
moment of execution, but drew from their posts 
the enemy they were not able to drive, and 
obliged them to close the campaign. As the 
circumstance is a curiosity in war, and not well 
understood in Europe, I shall, as concisely as I 
can, relate the principal parts; they may serve 
to prevent future historians from error, and re- 
cover from f orgetfulness a scene of magnificent 

Immediately after the surprise of the Hes- 
sians at Trenton, General Washington re-crossed 
the Delaware, which at this place is about three 
quarters of a mile over, and reassumed his former 
post on the Pennsylvania side. Trenton re- 
mained unoccupied, and the enemy were posted 
at Princeton, twelve miles distant, on the road 
toward New York. The weather was now 
growing very severe, and as there were very few 
houses near the shore where General Washington 


had taken his station, the greatest part of his 
army remained out in the woods and fields. 
These, with some other circumstances, induced 
the re-crossing the Delaware and taking posses- 
sion of Trenton. It was undoubtedly a bold ad- 
venture, and carried with it the appearance of 
defiance, especially when we consider the panic- 
struck condition of the enemy on the loss of the 
Hessian post. But in order to give a just idea 
of the affair, it is necessary that I should describe 
the place. 

Trenton is situated on a rising ground, about 
three quarters of a mile distant from the Dela- 
ware, on the eastern or Jersey side; and is cut 
into two divisions by a small creek or ri\Tilet, suffi- 
cient to turn a mill which is on it, after which 
it empties itself at nearly right angles into the 
Delaware. The upper division, which is that to 
the northeast, contains about seventy or eighty 
houses, and the lower about forty or fifty. The 
ground on each side this creek, and on which the 
houses are, is likewise rising, and the two divisions 
present an agreeable prospect to each other, with 
the creek between, on which there is a small stone 
bridge of one arch. 

Scarcely had General Washington taken post 
here, and before the several parties of militia, out 



on detachments, or on their way, could be col- 
lected, than the British, leaving behind them a 
strong garrison at Princeton, marched suddenly 
and entered Trenton at the upper or northeast 
quarter. A party of the Americans skirmished 
with the advanced party of the British, to afford 
time for removing the store and baggage, and 
withdrawing over the bridge. 

In a little time the British had possession of 
one half of the town. General Washington of 
the other; and the creek only separated the two 
armies. Nothing could be a more critical situa- 
tion than this, and if ever the fate of America 
depended upon the event of a day, it was now. 
The Delaware was filling fast with large sheets 
of driving ice, and was impassable; of course no 
retreat into Pennsylvania could be effected, 
neither is it possible, in the face of an enemy, 
to pass a river of such extent. The roads were 
broken and rugged with the frost, and the main 
road was occupied by the enemy. 

About four o'clock a party of the British ap- 
proached the bridge, with a design to gain it, but 
were repulsed. They made no more attempts, 
though the creek itself is passable anywhere 
between the bridge and the Delaware. It runs 
in a rugged, natural made ditch, over which a 


person may pass with little difficulty, the stream 
being rapid and shallow. Evening was now com- 
ing on, and the British, believing they had all the 
advantages they could wish for, and that they 
could use them when they pleased, discontinued 
all further operations, and held themselves pre- 
pared to make the attack next morning. 

But the next morning produced a scene as 
elegant as it was unexpected. The British were 
under arms and ready to march to action, when 
one of their light-horse from Princeton came fu- 
riously down the street, with an account that Gen- 
eral Washington had that morning attacked and 
carried the British post at that place, and was 
proceeding on to seize the magazine at Bruns- 
wick ; on which the British, who were then on the 
point of making an assault on the evacuated 
camp of the Americans, wheeled about, and in a 
fit of consternation marched for Princeton. 

This retreat is one of those extraordinary cir- 
cumstances, that in future ages may probably 
pass for fable. For it will with difficulty be be- 
lieved, that two armies, on which such important 
consequences depended, should be crowded mto 
so small a space as Trenton ; and that the one, on 
the eve of an engagement, when every ear is sup- 
posed to be open, and every degree of watchful- 



ness employed, should move completely from the 
ground, with all its stores, baggage and artillery, 
unknown and even unsuspected by the other. 
And so entirely were the British deceived, that 
when they heard the report of the cannon and 
small arms at Princeton, they supposed it to be 
thunder, though in the depth of winter. 

General Washington, the better to cover and 
disguise his retreat from Trenton, had ordered 
a line of fires to be lighted up in front of his 
camp. These not only served to give an appear- 
ance of going to rest, and continuing that decep- 
tion, but they effectually concealed from the 
British whatever was acting behind them, for 
flame can no more be seen through than a wall, 
and in this situation, it may with propriety be 
said, they became a pillar of fire to one army, 
and a pillar of cloud to the other. After this, 
by a circuitous march of about eighteen miles, 
the Americans reached Princeton early in the 

The number of prisoners taken was between 
two and three hundred, with which General 
Washington inmiediately set off. The van of the 
British Army from Trenton entered Princeton 
about an hour after the Americans had left it, 
who, continuing their march for the remainder 


of the day, arrived in the evening at a convenient 
situation, wide of the main road to Brunswick, 
and about sixteen miles distant from Princeton. 
But so wearied and exhausted were they, with the 
continual and unabated service and fatigue of 
two days and a night, from action to action, with- 
out shelter, and almost without refreshment, that 
the bare and frozen ground, with no other cover- 
ing than the sky, became to them a place of com- 
fortable rest. 

By these two events, and with but a little 
comparative force to accomplish them, the Amer- 
icans closed with advantage a campaign, which, 
but a few days before, threatened the country 
with destruction. The British Army, apprehen- 
sive for the safety of their magazines at Bruns- 
wick, eighteen miles distant, marched imme- 
diately for that place, where they arrived late 
in the evening, and from which they made no 
attempts to move, for nearly five months. 

Having thus stated the principal outlines of 
these two most interesting actions, I shall now 
quit them, to put the Abbe right in his mis-stated 
account of the debt and paper money of America, 
wherein, speaking of these matters, he says: 

These ideal riches were rejected. The more the 
multiplication of them was urged by want, the greater 



did their depreciation grow. The Congress was indig- 
nant at the affront given to its money, and declared 
all those to be traitors to their country, who should 
not receive it as they would have received gold itself. 

Did not this body know, that prepossessions are 
no more to be controlled than feelings are? Did it not 
perceive that, in the present crisis, every rational man 
would be afraid of exposing his fortune? Did it not 
see, that at the beginning of a republic, it permitted 
to itself the exercise of such acts of despotism as are 
unknown even in the countries which are molded to, 
and become familiar with, servitude and oppression? 
Could it pretend that it did not punish a want of con- 
fidence with the pains which would have been scarcely 
merited by revolt and treason? Of all this was the 
Congress well aware. But it had no choice of means. 
Its despised and despicable scraps of paper were act- 
ually thirty times below their original value, when more 
of them were ordered to be made. On the thirteenth of 
September, 1779, there was of this paper among the 
public, to the amount of £35,544,155. The State owed 
moreover £8,385,356, without reckoning the particular 
debts of single provinces. 

In the above recited passages, the Abbe 
speaks as if the United States had contracted a 
debt of upwards of forty milhon pounds sterling, 
besides the debts of the individual states. After 
which, speaking of foreign trade with America, 
he says, that "those countries in Europe, which 
are truly commercial ones, knowing that North 
America had been reduced to contract debts, at 
the epoch even of her greatest prosperity, wisely 


thought that, in her present distress, she would 
be able to pay but very little, for what might be 
carried to her." 

I know it must be extremely difficult to make 
foreigners understand the nature and circum- 
stances of our paper money, because there are 
natives, who do not understand it themselves. 
But with us its fate is now determined. Com- 
mon consent has consigned it to rest with that 
kind of regard, which the long service of inan- 
imate things insensibly obtains from mankind. 
Every stone in the bridge, that has carried us 
over, seems to have a claim upon our esteem. 
But this was a corner-stone, and its usefulness 
cannot be forgotten. There is something in a 
grateful mind, which extends itself even to 
things that can neither be benefited by regard, 
nor suffer by neglect; but so it is; and almost 
every man is sensible of the effect. 

But to return. The paper money, though 
issued from Congress under the name of dollars, 
did not come from that body always at that 
value. Those which were issued the first year, 
were equal to gold and silver. The second year 
less, the third still less, and so on, for nearly the 
space of five years: at the end of which, I 
imagine, that the whole value, at which Congress 



might pay away the several emissions, taking 
them together, was about ten or twelve million 
pounds sterUng. 

Now as it would have taken ten or twelve 
millions sterling of taxes to carry on the war for 
five years, and, as while this money was issuing, 
and likewise depreciating down to nothing, there 
were none, or few valuable taxes paid; conse- 
quently the event to the public was the same, 
whether they sunk ten or twelve millions of ex- 
pended money, by depreciation, or paid ten or 
twelve millions by taxation; for as they did not 
do both, and chose to do one, the matter which, 
in a general view, was indifferent. And there- 
fore, what the Abbe supposes to be a debt, has 
now no existence; it having been paid, by every- 
body consenting to reduce, at his own expense, 
from the value of the bills continually passing 
among themselves, a sum, equal, nearly, to what 
the expense of the war was for five years. 

Again. The paper money having now ceased, 
and the depreciation with it, and gold and silver 
supphed its place, the war will now be carried 
on by taxation, which will draw from the pubHc 
a considerable less sum than what the deprecia- 
tion drew ; but as while they pay the former, they 
do not suffer the latter, and as when they suffered 


the latter, they did not pay the former, the thing 
will be nearly equal, with this moral advantage, 
that taxation occasions frugality and thought, 
and depreciation produces dissipation and care- 

And again. If a man's portion of taxes 
comes to less than what he lost by the deprecia- 
tion, it proves that the alteration is in his favor. 
If it comes to more and he is justly assessed, it 
shows that he did not sustain his proper share of 
depreciation, because the one was as operatively 
his tax as the other. 

It is true, that it never was intended, neither 
was it foreseen, that the debt contained in the 
paper currency should sink itself in this manner ; 
but as, by the voluntary conduct of all and of 
everj^one, it has arrived at this fate, the debt is 
paid by those who owed it. 

Perhaps nothing was ever so universally the 
act of a country as this. Government had no 
hand in it. Every man depreciated his own 
money by his own consent, for such was the ef- 
fect, which the raising the nominal value of goods 
produced. But as by such reduction he sustained 
a loss equal to what he must have paid to sink it 
by taxation, therefore the hne of justice is to 
consider his loss by the depreciation as his tax 



for that time, and not to tax him when the war 
is over, to make that money good in any other 
person's hands, which became nothing in his own. 

Again. The paper currency was issued for 
the express purpose of carrying on the war. It 
has performed that service, without any other 
material charge to the pubHc, while it lasted. 
But to suppose, as some did, that, at the end of 
the war, it was to grow into gold or silver, or 
become equal thereto, was to suppose that we 
were to get two hundred millions of dollars by 
going to war, instead of paying the cost of car- 
rying it on. 

But if anything in the situation of America, 
as to her currency or her circumstances, yet re- 
mains not understood, then let it be remembered, 
that this war is the public's war — the country's 
war. It is their independence that is to be sup- 
ported ; their property that is to be secured ; their 
country that is to be saved. Here, Government, 
the army, and the people, are mutually and 
reciprocally one. In other wars, kings may lose 
their thrones, and their dominions; but here, the 
loss must fall on the majesty of the multitude, 
and the property they are contending to save. 
Every man being sensible of this, he goes to the 
field, or pays his portion of the charge, as the 


sovereign of his own possessions; and when he 
is conquered a monarch falls. 

The remark, which the Abbe in the conclusion 
of the passage has made, respecting America's 
contracting debts in the time of her prosperity, 
(by which he means, before the breaking out of 
hostilities), serves to show, though he has not 
made the application, the very great commercial 
difference between a dependent and an independ- 
ent country. In a state of dependence, and with 
a fettered commerce, though with all the advan- 
tages of peace, her trade could not balance itself, 
and she annually run into debt. But now, in a 
state of independence, though involved in war, 
she requires no credit: her stores are full of mer- 
chandize, and gold and silver are become the cur- 
rency of the country. How these things have 
established themselves is difficult to account for: 
but they are facts, and facts are more powerful 
than arguments. 

As it is probable this letter will undergo a re- 
publication in Europe, the remarks here thrown 
together will serve to show the extreme folly of 
Britain in resting her hopes of success on the ex- 
tinction of our paper currency. The expecta- 
tion is at once so childish and forlorn, that it 



places her in the laughable condition of a fam- 
ished lion watching for prey at a spider's web. 

From this account of the currency, the Abbe 
proceeds to state the condition of America in the 
winter of 1777, and the spring following; and 
closes his observations with mentioning the 
Treaty of Alliance, which was signed in France, 
and the propositions of the British Ministry, 
which were rejected in America. But in the 
manner in which the Abbe has arranged his facts, 
there is a very material error, that not only he, 
but other European historians have fallen into; 
none of them having assigned the true cause why 
the British proposals were rejected, and all of 
them have assigned a wrong one. 

In the winter of 1778, and spring following. 
Congress were assembled at York Town, in 
Pennsylvania, the British were in possession of 
Philadelphia, and General Washington with the 
army was encamped in huts at Valley Forge 
twenty-five miles distant therefrom. To all, who 
can remember, it was a season of hardship, but 
not despair; and the Abbe, speaking of this 
period and its inconveniences, says : 

A multitude of privations, added to so many other 
misfortunes, might make the Americans regret their 
former tranquillity, and incline them to an accommoda- 



tion with England. In vain had the people been bound 
to the new government by the sacredness of oaths and 
the influence of religion. In vain had endeavors been 
used to convince them that it was impossible to treat 
safely with a countr}', in which one Parliament might 
overturn what should have been established by another. 
In vain had they been threatened with the eternal re- 
sentment of an exasperated and vindictive enemy. It 
was possible that these distant troubles might not be 
balanced by the weight of present evils. 

So thought the British Ministry, when they sent to 
the new world public agents, authorized to offer every- 
thing except independence to these very Americans, 
from whom they had two years before exacted an un- 
conditional submission. It is not improbable but, that 
by this plan of conciliation, a few months sooner, some 
effect might have been produced. But at the period, 
at which it was proposed by the Court of London, it 
was rejected with disdain, because this measure ap- 
peared but as an argument of fear and weakness. The 
people were already reassured. The Congress, the gen- 
erals, the troops, the bold and skilful men, in each col- 
ony had possessed themselves of the authority ; every 
thing had recovered its first spirit. This was the effect 
of a treaty of friendship and commerce between the 
United States and the Court of Versailles, signed the 
sixth of February, 1778. 

On this passage of the Abbe's I cannot help 
remarking, that, to unite time with circumstance, 
is a material nicety in history; the want of which 
frequently throws it into endless confusion and 
mistake, occasions a total separation between 
causes and consequences and connects them with 
yiii-io 219 


others they are not immediately, and sometimes 
not at all, related to. 

The Abbe, in saying that the offers of the 
British Ministry "were rejected with disdain," is 
right, as to the fact, but wrong as to the time; 
and this error in the time, has occasioned him to 
be mistaken in the cause. 

The signing the Treaty of Paris the sixth of 
February, 1778, could have no eiFect on the mind 
or politics of America, until it was known in 
America: and therefore, when the Abbe says, that 
the rejection of the British offers was in conse- 
quence of the alliance, he must mean, that it was 
in consequence of the alliance being known in 
America ; which was not the case : and by this mis- 
take he not only takes from her the reputation, 
which her unshaken fortitude in that trying situ- 
ation deserves, but is likewise led very injuriously 
to suppose, that had she not known of the treaty, 
the offers would probably have been accepted; 
whereas she knew nothing of the treaty at the 
time of the rejection, and consequently did not re- 
ject them on that ground. 

The propositions or offers above mentioned, 
were contained in two bills brought into the Brit- 
ish Parliament by Lord North, on the seven- 
teenth of February, 1778. Those biUs were hur- 


ried through both houses with unusual haste, and 
before they had gone through all the customary 
forms of Parliament, copies of them were sent 
over to Lord Howe and General Howe, then in 
Philadelphia, who were likewise commissioners. 
General Howe ordered them to be printed in 
Philadelphia, and sent copies of them by a flag 
to General Washington, to be forwarded to Con- 
gress at York Town, where they arrived the 
twenty-first of April, 1778. Thus much for the 
arrival of the bills in America. 

Congress, as is their usual mode, appointed a 
committee from their own body, to examine them 
and report thereon. The report was brought in 
the next day, (the twenty-second), was read, 
and unanimously agreed to, entered on their 
journals, and pubHshed for the information of 
the country. Now this report must be the re- 
jection to which the Abbe alludes, because Con- 
gress gave no other formal opinion on those bills 
and propositions: and on a subsequent apphca- 
tion from the British commissioners, dated the 
twenty-seventh of May, and received at York 
Town [Pa.] the sixth of June, Congress imme- 
diately referred them for an answer, to their 
printed resolves of the twenty-second of April. 
Thus much for the rejection of the offers. 



On the second of May, that is, eleven days 
after the above rejection was made, the treaty be- 
tween the United States and France arrived at 
York Town ; and until this moment Congress had 
not the least notice or idea, that such a measure 
was in any train of execution. But lest this 
declaration of mine should pass only for assertion, 
I shall support it by proof, for it is material to 
the character and principle of the Revolution to 
show, that no condition of America, since the 
Declaration of Independence, however trying and 
severe, ever operated to produce the most distant 
idea of yielding it up either by force, distress, 
artifice or persuasion. And this proof is the 
more necessary, because it was the system of the 
British Ministry at this time, as well as before 
and since, to hold out to the European powers 
that America was unfixed in her resolutions and 
policy; hoping by this artifice to lessen her repu- 
tation in Europe, and weaken the confidence 
which those powers or any of them might be 
inclined to place in her. 

At the time these matters were transacting, I 
was secretary in the Foreign Department of Con- 
gress. All the political letters from the Amer- 
ican commissioners rested in my hands, and all 
that were officially written went from my office; 


and so far from Congress knowing anything of 
the signing the treaty, at the time they rejected 
the British offers, they had not received a hne of 
information from their commissioners at Paris, 
on any subject whatever, for upwards of a 
twelve-month. Probably the loss of the port of 
Philadelphia and the navigation of the Delaware, 
together with the danger of the seas, covered at 
this time with British cruisers, contributed to the 

One packet, it is true, arrived at York Town 
in January preceding, which was about three 
months before the arrival of the treaty; but, 
strange as it may appear, every letter had been 
taken out, before it was put on board the vessel 
which brought it from France, and blank white 
paper put in their stead. 

Having thus stated the time when the propos- 
als from the British commissioners were first re- 
ceived, and likewise the time when the Treaty of 
Alliance arrived, and shown that the rejection of 
the former was eleven days prior to the arrival 
of the latter, and without the least knowledge of 
such circumstance having taken place or being 
about to take place; the rejection, therefore, 
must, and ought to be attributed to the fixed, un- 
varied sentiments of America respecting the 



enemy she is at war with, and her determina- 
tion to support her independence to the last pub- 
lic effort, and not to any new circumstance which 
had taken place in her favor, which at that time 
she did not and could not know of. 

Besides, there is a vigor of determination and 
spirit of defiance in the language of the rejec- 
tion, (which I here subjoin), which derive their 
greatest glory by appearing before the treaty 
was known; for that which is bravery in dis- 
tress, becomes insult in prosperity : and the treaty 
placed America on such a strong foundation, that 
had she then known it, the answer which she gave, 
would have appeared rather as an air of triumph, 
than as the glowing serenity of fortitude. 

Upon the whole, the Abbe appears to have 
entirely mistaken the matter; for instead of at- 
tributing the rejection of the propositions to our 
knowledge of the Treaty of Alliance; he should 
have attributed the origin of them in the British 
Cabinet, to their knowledge of that event. And 
then the reason why they were hurried over to 
America in the state of bills, that is, before they 
were passed into acts, is easily accounted for, 
which is that they might have the chance of reach- 
ing America before any knowledge of the treaty 
should arrive, which they were lucky enough to 


do, and there met the fate they so riclily merited. 
That these bills were brought into the Brit- 
ish Parliament after the treaty with France was 
signed, is proved from the dates : the treaty being 
on the sixth, and the bills on the seventeenth of 
February. And that the signing the treaty was 
known in Parliament, when the bills were brought 
in, is likewise proved by a speech of Mr. Fox, on 
the said seventeenth of February, who, in reply 
to Lord North, informed the House of the treaty 
being signed, and challenged the Minister's 
knowledge of the same fact.* 

* In Congress, April 22, 1788. 

The committee to whom was referred the General's letter of 
the eighteenth, containing a certain printed paper sent from Phila- 
delphia, purporting to be the draft of a bill for declaring the 
intentions of the Parliament of Great Britain, as to the exercise 
of what they are pleased to term their right of imposing taxes 
within these United States: and also the draft of a biU to en- 
able the King of Great Britain to appoint commissioners, with 
powers to treat, consult, and agree upon the means of quieting 
certain disorders within the said states, beg leave to observe, 

That the said paper being industriously circulated by emis- 
saries of the enemy, in a partial and secret manner, the same 
ought to be forthwith printed for the public information. 

The committee cannot ascertain whether the contents of the said 
paper have been framed in Philadelphia, or in Great Britain, much 
less whether the same are really and truly intended to be brought 
into the Parliament of that Kingdom, or whether the said Parlia- 
ment will confer thereon the usual solemnities of their laws. But 
are inclined to believe this will happen, for the following reasons: 

1st, Because their General hath made divers feeble efforts to 
set on foot some kind of treaty during the last winter, though, 
either from a mistaken idea of his own dignity and importance, 
the want of information, or some other cause, he hath not made 
application to those who are invested with a proper authority. 



Though I am not surprised to see the Abbe 
mistaken in matters of history, acted at such a 
distance from his sphere of immediate observa- 
tion, yet I am more than surprised to find him 

2d, Because they suppose that the fallacious idea of a cessa- 
tion of hostilities will render these states remiss in their prepara- 
tions for war. 

3d, Because believing the Americans wearied with war, they 
suppose we will accede to their terms for the sake of peace. 

4th, Because they suppose our negotiations may be subject 
to a like corrupt influence with their debates. 

5th, Because they expect from this step the same effects 
they did from what one of their ministers thought proper to call 
his conciliatory motion, viz., that it will prevent foreign powers 
from giving aid to these states; that it will lead their own sub- 
jects to continue a little longer the present war: and that it will 
detach some weak men in America, from the cause of freedom 
and virtue. 

6th, Because their King, from his own showing, hath reason 
to apprehend that his fleets and armies, instead of being em- 
ployed against the territories of these states, will be necessary for 
the defense of his own dominions. And, 

7th, Because the impracticability of subjugating this country 
being every day more and more manifest, it is their interest to 
extricate themselves from the war upon any terms. 

The committee beg leave further to observe, that upon a 
supposition the matters contained in the said paper will really go 
into the British statute books, they serve to show, in a clear point 
of view, the weakness and wickedness of the enemy. 

Their weakness. 

1st, Because they formerly declared, not only that they had a 
right to bind the inhabitants of these states in all cases whatso- 
ever, but also that the said inhabitants should absolutely and 
unconditionally submit to the exercise of that right. And this 
submission they have endeavored to exact by the sword. Receding 
from this claim, therefore, imder the present circumstances, shows 
their inability to enforce it. 

2d, Because their Prince hath heretofore rejected the 
humblest petitions of the representatives of America, praying to 
be considered as subjects, and protected in the enjoyment of 



wrong" (or at least what appears so to me) in 
the well enlightened field of philosophical reflec- 
tion. Here the materials are his own ; created b}' 
himself; and the error, therefore, is an act of the 

peace, liberty and safety: and hath waged a most cruel war 
against them, and employed the savages to butcher innocent 
women and children. But now the same Prince pretends to treat 
with those very representatives, and grant to the arms of America 
what he refused to her prayers. 

3d, Because they have uniformly labored to conquer this con- 
tinent, rejecting every idea of accommodation proposed to them, 
from a confidence in their own strength. Wherefore it is evident, 
from the change in their mode of attack, that they have lost this 
confidence. And, 

4th, Because the constant language, spoken, not only by 
their ministers, but by the most public and authentic acts of the 
nation, hath been, that it is incompatible with their dignity to 
treat with the Americans while they have arms in their hands. 
Notwithstanding which, an offer is now about to be made for 

The vnckedness and insincerity of the enemy appear from 
the following considerations: 

1st, Either the hills now to be passed contain a direct or in- 
direct cession of a part of their former claims, or they do not. 
If they do, then it is acknowledged that they have sacrificed many 
brave men in an uunjust quarrel. If they do not, then they are cal- 
culated to deceive America into terms, to which neither argument 
before the war, nor force since, could procure her assent. 

2d, The first of these hills appears, from the title, to be a 
declaration of the intentions of the British Parliament concerning 
the exercise of the right of imposing taxes within these states. 
Wherefore, should these states treat under the said bill, they 
would indirectly acknowledge that right, to obtain which ac- 
knowledgment the present war hath been avowedly undertaken 
and prosecuted on the part of Great Britain. 

3d, Should such pretended right be so acquiesced in, then, of 
consequence the same right might be exercised whenever the 
British Parliament should find themselves in a different temper 
and dispositions since it must depend upon those, and such like 



Hitherto my remarks have been confined to 
circumstance; the order in which they arose, and 
the events they produced. In these, my informa- 
tion being better than the Abbe's, my task was 

contingencies, how far men will act according to their former 

4th, The said first bill, in the bodj thereof, containeth no 
new matter, but is precisely the same with the motion before- 
mentioned, and liable to all the objections which lay against the 
said motion, excepting the following particular, viz., that by the 
motion actual taxation was to be suspended, so long as America 
should give as much as the said Parliament might think proper: 
whereas, by the proposed bill, it is to be suspended, as long as 
future parliaments continue of the same mind with the present. 

5th, From the second bill it appears, that the British King 
may, if he pleases, appoint commissioners to treat and agree with 
those, whom they please, about a variety of things therein men- 
tioned. But such treaties and agreements are to be of no validity 
without the concurrence of the said Parliament, except so far as 
they relate to the suspension of hostilities, and of certain of their 
acts, the granting of pardons, and the appointing of governors 
to these sovereign, free and independent states. Wherefore, the 
said Parliament have reserved to themselves, in express words, the 
power of setting aside any such treaty, and taking the advantage 
of any circumstances which may arise to subject this continent to 
their usurpations. 

6th, The said bill, by holding forth a tender of pardon, im- 
plies a criminality in our justifiable resistance, and consequently, 
to treat under it would be an implied acknowledgment that the 
inhabitants of these states were what Britain has declared them 
to be. Rebels. 

7th, The inhabitants of these states being claimed by them 
as subjects, they may infer, from the nature of the negotiation 
now pretended to be set on foot, that the said inhabitants would 
of right be afterwards bound by such laws as they should make. 
Wherefore, any agreement entered into on such negotiation might 
at any future time be repealed. And, 

8th, Because the said bill purports, that the commissioners 
therein mentioned may treat with private individuals: a measure 
highly derogatory to the dignity of national character. 



easy. How I may succeed in controverting mat- 
ters of sentiment and opinion, with one whom 
years, experience, and long estabhshed reputa- 
tion have placed in a superior line, I am less con- 

From all which it appears evident to your committee, that 
the said bills are intended to operate upon the hopes and fears 
of the good people of these states, so as to create divisions among 
them, and a defection from the common cause, now by the bless- 
ing of Divine Providence drawing near to a favorable issue. That 
they are the sequel of that insidious plan, which from the days of 
the Stamp Act down to the present time, hath involved this country 
in contention and bloodshed. And that, as in other cases so in 
this, although circumstances may force them at times to recede 
from the unjustifiable claims, there can be no doubt but they will 
as heretofore, upon the first favorable occasion, again display that 
lust of domination, which hath rent in twain the mighty empire 
of Britain. 

Upon the whole matter, the committee beg leave to report it 
as their opinion, that as the Americans imited in this arduous 
contest upon principles of common interest, for the defense of 
common rights and privileges, which union hath been cemented 
by common calamities and by mutual good offices and affection, 
so the great cause for which they contend, and in which all man- 
kind are interested, must derive its success from the continuance 
of that union. Wherefore, any man, or body of men, who should 
presume to make any separate or partial convention or agreement 
with commissioners under the Crown of Great Britain, or any of 
them, ought to be considered and treated as open and avowed 
enemies of the United States. 

And further your committee beg leave to report it as their 
opinion, that these United States cannot with propriety, hold any 
conference or treaty with any commissioners on the part of Great 
Britain, unless they shall, as a preliminary thereto, either with- 
draw their fleets and armies, or else, in positive and express 
terms, acknowledge the independence of the said states. 

And inasmuch as it appears to be the design of the enemies 
of these states to lull them into a fatal security — to the end that 
they may act with becoming weight and importance, it is the 
opinion of your committee, that the several states be called upon 
to use the utmost strenuous exertions to have their respective 



fident in; but as they fall within the scope of 
my observations it would be improper to pass 
them over. 

From this part of the Abbe's work to the lat- 
ter end, I find several expressions, which appear 
to me to start, with cynical complexion, from the 
path of liberal thinking, or at least they are so 
involved as to lose many of the beauties which 
distinguish other parts of the performance. 

The Abbe having brought his work to the 

quotas of Continental troops in the field as soon as possible, and 
that all the militia of the said states be held in readiness, to act 
as occasion may require. 

The following is the answer of Congress to the second application 
of the commissioners: 

"Sir: York Town, June 6, 1778, 

" I have had the honor of laying your letter of the third instant, 
with the acts of the British Parliament which came inclosed, 
before Congress: and I am instructed to acquaint you, Sir, that 
they have already expressed their sentiments upon bills, not essen- 
tially different from those acts, in a publication of the twenty- 
second of April last. 

" Be assured, Sir, when the King of Great Britain shall be 
seriously disposed to put an end to the unprovoked and cruel 
war waged against these United States, Congress will readUy 
attend to such terms of peace, as may consist with the honor 
of independent nations, the interest of their constituents and the 
sacred regard they mean to pay to treaties. I have the honor to 
be, Sir, 

Your most obedient, and 

most humble servant. 

President of Congress." 
His Excellency, 
Sir Henry Clinton, K. B. Philadelphia. 



period when the Treaty of Alliance between 
France and the United States commenced, pro- 
ceeds to make some remarks thereon. 

In short, (says he), philosophy, whose first senti- 
ment is the desire to see all governments just and all 
people happy, in casting her eyes upon this alliance of 
a monarchy, with a people who are defending their 
liberty, is curious to know its motive. She sees at once 
too clearly, that the happiness of mankind has no part 
in it. 

Whatever train of thinking or of temper the 
Abbe might be in, when he penned this expres- 
sion, matters not. They will neither qualify the 
sentiment, nor add to its defect. If right, it 
needs no apology ; if wrong, it merits no excuse. 
It is sent into the world as an opinion of philos- 
ophy, and may be examined without regard to 
the author. 

It seems to be a defect, connected with in- 
genuity, that it often employs itself more in mat- 
ters of curiosity, than usefulness. Man must 
be the privy councillor of fate, or something is 
not right. He must know the springs, the whys 
and wherefores of everything, or he sits down 
unsatisfied. Whether this be a crime, or only 
a caprice of humanity, I am not inquiring into. 
I shall take the passage as I find it, and place 
my objections against it. 



It is not so properly the motives which pro- 
duced the alliance, as the consequences which are 
to be produced from it, that mark out the field of 
philosophical reflection. In the one we only pen- 
etrate into the barren cave of secrecy, where lit- 
tle can be known, and everything may be mis- 
conceived ; in the other, the mind is presented with 
a wide extended prospect of vegetative good, and 
sees a thousand blessings budding into existence. 

But the expression, even within the compass 
of the Abbe's meaning, sets out with an error, 
because it is made to declare that which no man 
has authority to declare. Who can say that the 
happiness of mankind made no part of the 
motives which produced the alliance? To be able 
to declare this, a man must be possessed of the 
mind of all the parties concerned, and know that 
their motives were something else. 

In proportion as the independence of Amer- 
ica became contemplated and understood, the 
local advantages of it to the immediate actors, 
and the numerous benefits it promised mankind, 
appeared to be every day increasing ; and we saw 
not a temporary good for the present race only, 
but a continued good to all posterity; these mo- 
tives, therefore, added to those which preceded 
them, became the motives on the part of Amer- 


ica, which led her to propose and agree to the 
Treaty of Alliance, as the best effectual method 
of extending and securing happiness ; and there- 
fore, with respect to us, the Abbe is wrong. 

France, on the other hand, was situated very 
differently. She was not acted upon by neces- 
sity to seek a friend, and therefore her motive in 
becoming one, has the strongest evidence of being 
good, and that which is so, must have some hap- 
piness for its object. With regard to herself, 
she saw a train of conveniences worthy her at- 
tention. By lessening the power of an enemy, 
whom at the same time she sought neither to de- 
stroy nor distress, she gained an advantage with- 
out doing an evil, and created to herself a new 
friend by associating with a country in misfor- 

The springs of thought that lead to actions of 
this kind, however poHtical they may be, are 
nevertheless naturally beneficent; for in all 
causes, good or bad, it is necessary there should 
be a fitness in the mind, to enable it to act in char- 
acter with the object: therefore, as a bad cause 
cannot be prosecuted with a good motive, so 
neither can a good cause be long supported by 
a bad one: and as no man acts without a motive, 
therefore in the present instance, as they cannot 



be bad, they must be admitted to be good. But 
the Abbe sets out upon such an extended scale, 
that he overlooks the degrees by which it is meas- 
ured, and rejects the beginning of good, because 
the end comes not out at once. 

It is true that bad motives may in some de- 
gree be brought to support a good cause or pro- 
secute a good object; but it never continues long, 
which is not the case with France; for either the 
object will reform the mind, or the mind corrupt 
the object, or else not being able, either way, to 
get into unison, they will separate in disgust : and 
this natural, though unperceived progress of as- 
sociation or contention between the mind and the 
object, is the secret cause of fidehty or defection. 
Every object a man pursues, is, for the time, a 
kind of mistress to his mind: if both are good 
or bad, the union is natural; but if they are in 
reverse, and neither can seduce nor yet reform 
the other, the opposition grows into dislike, and 
a separation follows. 

When the cause of America first made its ap- 
pearance on the stage of the universe, there were 
many, who, in the style of adventurers and for- 
tune-hunters, were dangling in its train, and 
making their court to it with every profession of 
honor and attachment. They were loud in its 


praise and ostentatious in its service. Every 
place echoed with their ardor or their anger, 
and they seemed like men in love. But, alas! 
they were fortune-hunters. Their expectations 
were excited, but their minds were unimpressed; 
and finding it not to their purpose, nor them- 
selves reformed by its influence, they ceased their 
suit, and in some instances deserted and be- 
trayed it. 

There were others, who at first beheld Amer- 
ica with indifference, and unacquainted with her 
character were cautious of her company. They 
treated her as one who, under the fair name of 
liberty, might conceal the hideous figure of an- 
archy, or the gloomy monster of tyranny. They 
knew not what she was. If fair, she was fair in- 
deed. But still she was suspected and though 
born among us appeared to be a stranger. 

Accident with some, and curiosity with others, 
brought on a distant acquaintance. They ven- 
tured to look at her. They felt an inclination to 
speak to her. One intimacy led to another, till 
the suspicion wore away, and a change of sen- 
timent gradually stole upon the mind; and hav- 
ing no self-interest to serve, no passion of dis- 
honor to gratify, they became enamored of her 
innocence, and, unaltered by misfortune or unin- 
viii-n 235 


fluenced by success, shared with fidelity in the 
varieties of her fate. 

This declaration of the Abbe's respecting mo- 
tives, has led me unintentionally into a train of 
metaphysical reasoning; but there was no other 
avenue by which it could properly be approached. 
To place presumption against presumption, as- 
sertion against assertion, is a mode of opposition 
that has no effect ; and therefore the more eligible 
method was to show that the declaration does not 
correspond with the natural progress of the mind, 
and the influence it has upon our conduct. I 
shall now quit this part and proceed to what I 
have before stated, namely, that it is not so 
properly the motives which produced the alliance, 
as the consequences to be procured from it, that 
mark out the field of philosophical reflection. 

It is an observation I have already made in 
some former publications, that the circle of civ- 
ilization is yet incomplete. Mutual wants have 
formed the individuals of each country into a 
kind of national society, and here the progress of 
civilization has stopped. For it is easy to see, 
that nations with regard to each other (notwith- 
standing the ideal civil law, which every one ex- 
plains as it suits him) are like individuals in a 
state of nature. They are regulated by no fixed 


principle, governed by no compulsive law, and 
each does independently what it pleases or what 
it can. 

Were it possible we could have known the 
world when in a state of barbarism, we might 
have concluded that it never could be brought into 
the order we now see it. The untamed mind was 
then as hard, if not harder, to work upon in its 
individual state, than the national mind is in its 
present one. Yet we have seen the accomplish- 
ment of one, why then should we doubt that of 
the other? 

There is a greater fitness in mankind to ex- 
tend and complete the civilization of nations 
with each other at this day, than there was to 
begin it with the unconnected individuals at first ; 
in the same manner that it is somewhat easier to 
put together the materials of a machine after 
they are formed, than it was to form them from 
original matter. The present condition of the 
world, differing so exceedingly from what it for- 
merly was, has given a new cast to the mind of 
man, more than what he appears to be sensible of. 
The wants of the individual, which first pro- 
duced the idea of society, are now augmented 
into the wants of the nation, and he is obliged to 



seek from another country what before he sought 
from the next person. 

Letters, the tongue of the world, have in 
some measure brought all mankind acquainted, 
and by an extension of their uses are every day 
promoting some new friendship. Through them 
distant nations become capable of conversation, 
and losing by degrees the awkwardness of 
strangers, and the moroseness of suspicion, they 
learn to know and understand each other. Sci- 
ence, the partisan of no country, but the bene- 
ficent patroness of all, has liberally opened a tem- 
ple where all may meet. Her influence on the 
mind, like the sun on the chilled earth, has long 
been preparing it for higher cultivation and fur- 
ther improvement. The philosopher of one coun- 
try sees not an enemy in the philosopher of an- 
other: he takes his seat in the temple of science, 
and asks not who sits beside him. 

This was not the condition of the barbarian 
world. Then the wants of men were few and 
the objects within his reach. While he could ac- 
quire these, he lived in a state of individual inde- 
pendence; the consequence of which was, there 
were as many nations as persons, each contending 
with the other, to secure something which he had, 
or to obtain something which he had not. The 


world had then no business to follow, no studies 
to exercise the mind. Their time was divided be- 
tween sloth and fatigue. Hunting and war were 
their chief occupations ; sleep and food their prin- 
cipal enjoyments. 

Now it is otherwise. A change in the mode 
of life has made it necessary to be busy ; and man 
finds a thousand things to do now which before 
lie did not. Instead of placing his ideas of great- 
ness in the rude achievements of the savage, he 
studies arts, sciences, agriculture and commerce, 
the refinements of the gentleman, the principles 
of society, and the knowledge of the philosopher. 

There are many things which in themselves 
are neither morally good nor bad, but they are 
productive of consequences, which are strongly 
marked with one or other of these characters. 
Thus commerce, though in itself a moral nullity, 
has had a considerable influence in tempering the 
human mind. It was the want of objects in the 
ancient world, which occasioned in them such a 
rude and perpetual turn for war. Their time 
hung on their hands without the means of em- 
ployment. The indolence they lived in afforded 
leisure for mischief, and being all idle at once, 
and equal in their circumstances, they were easily 
provoked or induced to action. 



But the introduction of commerce furnished 
the world with objects, which, in their extent, 
reach every man, and give him something to 
think about and something to do; by these his 
attention is mechanically drawn from the pur- 
suits which a state of indolence and an unem- 
ployed mind occasioned, and he trades with the 
same countries, which in former ages, tempted 
by their productions, and too indolent to pur- 
chase them, he would have gone to war with. 

Thus, as I have already observed, the con- 
dition of the world being materially changed by 
the influence of science and commerce, it is put 
into a fitness not only to admit of, but to desire, 
an extension of civilization. The principal and 
almost only remaining enemy, it now has to en- 
counter, is prejudice; for it is evidently the inter- 
est of mankind to agree and make the best of 
life. The world has undergone its divisions of 
empire, the several boundaries of which are 
known and settled. The idea of conquering 
countries, like the Greeks and Romans, does not 
now exist; and experience has exploded the 
notion of going to war for the sake of profit. 
In short, the objects for war are exceedingly 
diminished, and there is now left scarcely any- 
thing to quarrel about, but what arises from that 


demon of society, prejudice, and the consequent 
suUenness and untractableness of the temper. 

There is something exceedingly curious in the 
constitution and operation of prejudice. It has 
the singular ability of accommodating itself to 
all the possible varieties of the human mind. 
Some passions and vices are but thinly scattered 
among mankind, and find only here and there a 
fitness of reception. But prejudice, hke the 
spider, makes every place its home. It has 
neither taste nor choice of situation, and all that 
it requires is room. Everywhere, except in fire 
or water, a spider will live. 

So, let the mind be as naked as the walls of 
an empty and forsaken tenement, gloomy as a 
dungeon, or ornamented with the richest abili- 
ties of thinking, let it be hot, cold, dark or hght, 
lonely or inhabited, still prejudice, if undis- 
turbed, will fill it with cobwebs, and live, hke the 
spider, where there seems nothing to live on. If 
the one prepares her food by poisoning it to her 
palate and her use, the other does the same; and 
as several of our passions are strongly character- 
ized by the animal world, prejudice may be de- 
nominated the spider of the mind. 

Perhaps no two events ever united so inti- 
mately and forcibly to combat and expel preju- 



dice, as the Revolution of America and the alH- 
ance with France. Their effects are felt, and 
their influence already extends as well to the Old 
World as the New. Our style and manner of 
thinking have undergone a revolution more ex- 
traordinary than the political revolution of the 
country. We see with other eyes; we hear with 
other ears; and think with other thoughts, than 
those we formerly used. We can look back on 
our own prejudices, as if they had been the 
prejudices of other people. 

We now see and know they were prejudices 
and nothing else; and, relieved from their 
shackles, enjoy a freedom of mind, we felt not 
before. It was not all the argument, however 
powerful, nor the reasoning, however eloquent, 
that could have produced this change, so neces- 
sary to the extension of the mind, and the cor- 
diahty of the world, without the two circum- 
stances of the Revolution and the alliance. 

Had America dropped quietly from Britain, 
no material change in sentiment had taken place. 
The same notions, prejudices, and conceits would 
have governed in both countries, as governed 
them before, and, still the slaves of error and 
education, they would have traveled on in the 
beaten track of vulgar and habitual thinking. 


But brought about by the means it has been, both 
with regard to ourselves, to France and England, 
every corner of the mind is swept of its cobwebs, 
poison and dust, and made fit for the reception of 
generous happiness. 

Perhaps there never was an alliance on a 
broader basis, than that between America and 
France, and the progress of it is worth attending 
to. The countries had been enemies, not proper- 
ly of themselves, but through the medium of 
England. They originally had no quarrel with 
each other, nor any cause for one, but what arose 
from the interest of England, and her arming 
America against France. At the same time, the 
Americans at a distance from, and unacquainted 
with, the world, and tutored in all the prejudices 
which governed those who governed them, con- 
ceived it their duty to act as they were taught. 
In doing this, they expended their substance to 
make conquests, not for themselves, but for their 
masters, who in return treated them as slaves. 

A long succession of insolent severity, and the 
separation finally occasioned by the commence- 
ment of hostilities at Lexington, on the nineteenth 
of April, 1775, naturally produced a new disposi- 
tion of thinking. As the mind closed itself 
toward England, it opened itself toward the 



world, and our prejudices like our oppressions, 
underwent, though less observed, a mental ex- 
amination; until we found the former as incon- 
sistent with reason and benevolence, as the latter 
were repugnant to our civil and political rights. 

While we were thus advancing by degrees 
into the wide field of extended humanity, the alli- 
ance with France was concluded. An alliance 
not formed for the mere purpose of a day, but on 
just and generous grounds, and with equal and 
mutual advantages; and the easy, affectionate 
manner in which the parties have since communi- 
cated has made it an alliance not of courts only, 
but of countries. There is now an union of mind 
as well as of interest; and our hearts as well as 
our prosperity call on us to support it. 

The people of England not having expe- 
rienced this change, had likewise no ideas of it. 
They were hugging to their bosoms the same 
prejudices we were trampling beneath our feet; 
and they expected to keep a hold upon America, 
by that narrowness of thinking which America 
disdained. What they were proud of, we de- 
spised ; and this is a principal cause why all their 
negotiations, constructed on this ground, have 
failed. We are now really another people, and 
cannot again go back to ignorance and prejudice. 


The mind once enlightened cannot again become 
dark. There is no possibility, neither is there any 
term to express the supposition by, of the mind 
unknowing anything it already knows; and 
therefore all attempts on the part of England, 
fitted to the former habit of America, and on the 
expectation of their applying now, will be like 
persuading a seeing man to become blind, and a 
sensible one to turn an idiot. The first of which 
is unnatural and the other impossible. 

As to the remark which the Abbe makes on 
the one country being a monarchy and the other 
a republic, it can have no essential meaning. 
Forms of goverimient have nothing to do with 
treaties. The former are the internal police of 
the countries severally; the latter their external 
police jointly: and so long as each performs its 
part, we have no more right or business to know 
how the one or the other conducts its domestic 
affairs, than we have to inquire into the private 
concerns of a family. 

But had the Abbe reflected for a moment, he 
would have seen, that courts, or the governing 
powers of all countries, be their forms what they 
may, are relatively republics with each other. It 
is the first and true principle of alliance. An- 
tiquity may have given precedence, and power 



will naturally create importance, but their equal 
right is never disputed. It may likewise be 
worthy of remarking, that a monarchical country 
can suffer nothing in its popular happiness by 
an alliance with a republican one ; and republican 
governments have never been destroyed by their 
external connections, but by some internal con- 
vulsion or contrivance. France has been in al- 
liance with the Republic of Switzerland for more 
than two hundred years, and still Switzerland 
retains her original form of government as en- 
tire as if she had been allied with a republic like 
herself ; therefore this remark of the Abbe should 
go for nothing. Besides it is best mankind should 
mix. There is ever something to learn, either 
of manners or principle ; and it is by a free com- 
munication, without regard to domestic matters, 
that friendship is to be extended and prejudice 
destroyed all over the world. 

But notwithstanding the Abbe's high profes- 
sion in favor of liberty, he appears sometimes to 
forget himself, or that his theory is rather the 
child of his fancy than of his judgment: for in 
almost the same instant that he censures the alli- 
ance, as not originally or sufficiently calculated 
for the happiness of mankind, he, by a figure of 
implication, accuses France for having acted so 


generously and unreservedly in concluding it. 
" Why did they (says he, meaning the Court of 
France) tie themselves down by an inconsiderate 
treaty to conditions with the Congress, which 
they might themselves have held in dependence 
by ample and regular supplies? " 

When an author undertakes to treat of pub- 
lic happiness he ought to be certain that he does 
not mistake passion for right, nor imagination 
for principle. Principle, like truth, needs no 
contrivance. It will ever tell its own tale, and 
tell it the same way. But where this is not the 
case, every page must be watched, recollected, 
and compared like an invented story. 

I am surprised at this passage of the Abbe's. 
It means nothing or it means ill; and in any 
case it shows the great difference between spec- 
ulative and practical knowledge. A treaty ac- 
cording to the Abbe's language would have 
neither duration nor affection: it might have 
lasted to the end of the war, and then expired 
with it. But France, by acting in a style superior 
to the little politics of narrow thinking, has es- 
tablished a generous fame and won the love of 
a country she was before a stranger to. She had 
to treat with a people who thought as nature 
taught them; and, on her own part, she wisely 



saw there was no present advantage to be ob- 
tained by unequal terms, which could balance the 
more lasting ones that might flow from a kind 
and generous beginning. 

From this part the Abbe advances into the 
secret transactions of the two cabinets of Ver- 
sailles and Madrid respecting the independence 
of America; through which I mean not to follow 
him. It is a circumstance sufficiently striking 
without being commented on, that the former 
union of America with Britain produced a power 
which, in her hands, was becoming dangerous to 
the world: and there is no improbabihty in sup- 
posing, that had the latter known as much of 
the strength of the former, before she began the 
quarrel, as she has known since, that instead of 
attempting to reduce her to imconditional sub- 
mission, she would have proposed to her the con- 
quest of Mexico. But from the countries sep- 
arately, Spain has nothing to apprehend, though 
from their union she had more to fear than any 
other power in Europe. 

The part which I shall more particularly con- 
fine myself to, is that wherein the Abbe takes an 
opportunity of complimenting the British Minis- 
try with high encomiums of admiration, on their 


rejecting the offered mediation of the Court of 
Madrid, in 1779. 

It must be remembered that before Spain 
joined France in the war, she undertook the office 
of a mediator, and made proposals to the British 
King and Ministry so exceedingly favorable to 
their interest, that had they been accepted, would 
have become inconvenient, if not inadmissible, to 
America. These proposals were nevertheless re- 
jected by the British Cabinet; on which the Abbe 
says — 

It is m such a circumstance as this; it is In the 
time when noble pride elevates the soul superior to all 
terror ; when nothing is seen more dreadful than the 
shame of receiving the law, and when there is no doubt 
or hesitation which to choose, between ruin and dis- 
honor; It is then, that the greatness of a nation is 
displayed. I acknowledge, however, that men, accus- 
tomed to judge of things by the event, call great and 
perilous resolutions heroism or madness, according to 
the good or bad success with which they have been at- 
tended. If then, I should be asked, what Is the name 
which shall In years to come be given to the firmness, 
which was In this moment exhibited by the English, 
I shall answer that I do not know. But that which 
it deserves I know. I know that the annals of the world 
hold out to us but rarely, the august and majestic 
spectacle of a nation, which chooses rather to renounce 
its duration than Its glory. 

In this paragraph the conception is lofty and 
the expression elegant, but the coloring is too 



high for the original, and the likeness fails 
tlirough an excess of graces. To fit the powers 
of thinking and the turn of language to the sub- 
ject, so as to bring out a clear conclusion that 
shall hit the point in question and nothing else, 
is the true criterion of writing. But the greater 
part of the Abbe's writings (if he will pardon me 
the remark) appear to me uncentral and bur- 
dened with variety. They represent a beautiful 
wilderness without paths; in which the eye is di- 
verted by everything without being particularly 
directed to anything ; and in which it is agreeable 
to be lost, and difficult to find the way out. 

Before I offer any other remark on the spirit 
and composition of the above passage, I shall 
compare it with the circumstance it alludes to. 

The circumstance then does not deserve the 
encomium. The rejection was not prompted by 
her fortitude but her vanity. She did not view it 
as a case of despair or even of extreme danger, 
and consequently the determination to renounce 
her duration rather than her glory, cannot apply 
to the condition of her mind. She had then high 
expectations of subjugating America, and had 
no other naval force against her than France; 
neither was she certain that rejecting the media- 
tion of Spain would combine that power with 


France. New meditations might arise more fa- 
vorable than those she had refused. But if they 
should not, and Spain should join, she still saw 
that it would only bring out her naval force 
against France and Spain, which was not wanted 
and could not be employed against America, and 
habits of thinking had taught her to believe her- 
self superior to both. 

But in any case to which the consequence 
might point, there was nothing to impress her 
with the idea of renouncing her duration. It is 
not the policy of Europe to suffer the extinction 
of any power, but only to lop off or prevent its 
dangerous increase. She was likewise freed by 
situation from the internal and immediate hor- 
rors of invasion; was rolling in dissipation and 
looking for conquests; and though she suffered 
nothing but the expense of war, she still had a 
greedy eye to magnificent reimbursement. 

But if the Abbe is delighted with high and 
striking singularities of character, he might, in 
America, have found ample field for encomium. 
Here was a people, who could not know what 
part the world would take for, or against them; 
and who were venturing on an untried scheme, in 
opposition to a power, against which more for- 
midable nations had failed. They had every- 
viii-18 251 


thing to learn but the principles which supported 
them, and everything to procure that was neces- 
sary for their defense. They have at times seen 
themselves as low as distress could make them, 
without showing the least decrease of forti- 
tude; and been raised again by the most unex- 
pected events, without discovering an unmanly 
discomposure of joy. To hesitate or to despair 
are conditions equally unknown in America. 
Her mind was prepared for everj^thing; because 
her original and final resolution of succeeding or 
perishing included all possible circumstances. 

The rejection of the British propositions in 
the year 1778, circumstanced as America was at 
that time, is a far greater instance of unshaken 
fortitude than the refusal of the Spanish media- 
tion by the Court of London: and other histori- 
ans, besides the Abbe, struck with the vastness of 
her conduct therein, have, hke liimself , attributed 
it to a circumstance which was then unknown, 
the alHance with France. Their error shows their 
idea of its greatness ; because in order to account 
for it, they have sought a cause suited to its mag- 
nitude, without knowing that the cause existed 
in the principles of the country.* 

* Extract from "A short Review of the present Reign," in 
England, p. 45, in the new "Annual Register," for the year 1780. 



But this passionate encomium of the Abbe is 
deservedly subject to moral and philosophical 
objections. It is the effusion of wild thinking, 
and has a tendency to prevent that humanity of 
reflection which the criminal conduct of Britain 
enjoins on her as a duty. It is a laudanum to 
courtly iniquity. It keeps in intoxicated sleep 
the conscience of a nation; and more mischief is 
effected by wrapping up guilt in splendid ex- 
cuse, than by directly patronizing it. 

Britain is now the only country which holds 
the world in disturbance and war ; and instead of 
paying compliments to the excess of her crimes, 
the Abbe would have appeared much more in 
character, had he put to her, or to her monarch, 
this serious question — 

Are there not miseries enough in the world, 
too difficult to be encountered and too pointed to 
be born, without studying to enlarge the list 
and arming it with new destruction? Is life so 

" The commissioners, who, in consequence of Lord North's con- 
ciliatory bills, went over to America, to propose terms of peace 
to the colonies, were wholly unsuccessful. The concessions which 
formerly would have been received with the utmost gratitude, 
were rejected with disdain. Now was the time of American pride 
and haughtiness. It is probable, however, that it was not pride 
and haughtiness alone that dictated the resolutions of Congress, 
but a distrust of the sincerity of the offers of Britain, a determin- 
ation not to give up their independence, and, above all, the en- 
gagements into which they had entered by their late treaty with 



very long that it is necessary, nay even a duty, 
to shake the sand and hasten out the period of 
duration? Is the path so elegantly smooth, so 
decked on every side and carpeted with joys, that 
wretchedness is wanted to enrich it as a soil ? Go 
ask thine acliing heart, when sorrow from a thou- 
sand causes wounds it, go ask thy sickened self, 
when every medicine fails, whether this be the 
case or not? 

Quitting my remarks on this head, I proceed 
to another, in which the Abbe has let loose a vein 
of ill-nature, and, what is still worse, of injustice. 

After cavilling at the treaty, he goes on to 
characterize the several parties combined in the 

Is it possible, (says the Abbe), that a strict union 
should long subsist amongst confederates, of characters 
so opposite as the hasty, light, disdainful Frenchman, 
the jealous, haughty, sly, slow, circumspect Spaniard, 
and the American, who is secretly snatching a look at 
the mother country, and would rejoice, were they com- 
patible with his independence, at the disasters of his 
allies ? 

To draw foolish portraits of each other, is a 
mode of attack and reprisal, which the greater 
part of mankind are fond of indulging. The 
serious philosopher should be above it, more espe- 
cially in cases from which no good can arise, and 


mischief may, and where no received provocation 
can palliate the offense. The Abbe might have 
invented a diff'erence of character for every 
country in the world, and they in return might 
find others for him, till in the war of wit all real 
character is lost. The pleasantry of one nation 
or the gravity of another may, by a little pencil- 
ling, be distorted into whimsical features, and 
the painter becomes as much laughed at as the 

But why did not the Abbe look a little deeper, 
and bring forth the excellencies of the several 
parties? — Why did he not dwell with pleasure 
on that greatness of character, that superiority 
of heart, which has marked the conduct of 
France in her conquests, and which has forced an 
acknowledgment even from Britain? 

There is one line, at least, (and many others 
might be discovered,) in which the confederates 
unite; which is, that of a rival eminence in their 
treatment of their enemies. Spain, in her con- 
quest of Minorca and the Bahama Islands, con- 
firms this remark. America has been invariable 
in her lenity from the beginning of the war, not- 
withstanding the high provocations she has ex- 
perienced. It is England only who has been 
insolent and cruel. 



But why must America be charged with a 
crime undeserved by her conduct, more so by her 
principles, and which, if a fact, would be fatal to 
her honor? I mean the want of attachment to 
her alhes, or rejoicing in their disasters. She, 
it is true, has been assiduous in showing to the 
world that she was not the aggressor toward 
England, and that the quarrel was not of her 
seeking, or, at that time, even of her wishing. 
But to draw inferences from her candor, and 
even from her justification, to stab her character 
by, (and I see nothing else from which they can 
be supposed to be drawn,) is unkind and unjust. 

Does her rejection of the British propositions 
in 1778, before she knew of any alliance with 
France, correspond with the Abbe's description 
of her mind? Does a single instance of her con- 
duct since that time justify it? — But there is a 
still better evidence to apply to, which is, that of 
all the mails which, at different times, have been 
waylaid on the road, in divers parts of America, 
and taken and carried into New York, and from 
which the most secret and confidential private 
letters, as well as those from authority, have been 
published, not one of them, I repeat it, not a 
single one of them, gave countenance to such a 



This is not a country where men are under 
government restraint in speaking ; and if there is 
any kind of restraint, it arises from a fear of 
popular resentment. Now if nothing in her 
private or pubhc correspondence favors such a 
suggestion, and if the general disposition of the 
country is such as to make it unsafe for a man to 
show an appearance of joy at any disaster to her 
ally, on what grounds, I ask, can the accusation 
stand ? What company the Abbe may have kept 
in France, we cannot know; but this we know, 
that the account he gives does not apply to 

Had the Abbe been in America at the time the 
news arrived of the disaster of the fleet under 
Count de Grasse, in the West Indies, he would 
have seen his vast mistake. Neither do I remem- 
ber any instance, except the loss of Charleston, 
in which the public mind suffered more severe 
and pungent concern, or underwent more agita- 
tions of hope and apprehension as to the truth or 
falsehood of the report. Had the loss been aU 
our own, it could not have had a deeper effect; 
yet it was not one of those cases which reached 
to the independence of America. 

In the geographical account which the Abbe 
gives of the thirteen states, he is so exceedingly 



erroneous, that to attempt a particular refuta- 
tion, would exceed the limits I have prescribed to 
myself. And as it is a matter neither pohtical, 
historical, or sentimental, and which can always 
be contradicted by the extent and natural circum- 
stances of the country, I shall pass it over; with 
this additional remark, that I never yet saw an 
European description of America that was true, 
neither can any person gain a just idea of it, but 
by coming to it. 

Though I have already extended this letter 
beyond what I at first proposed, I am, neverthe- 
less, obliged to omit many observations, I orig- 
inally designed to have made. I wish there had 
been no occasion for making any. But the 
wrong ideas which the Abbe's work had a ten- 
dency to excite, and the prejudicial impressions 
they might make, must be an apology for my 
remarks, and the freedom with which they are 

I observe the Abbe has made a sort of epitome 
of a considerable part of the pamphlet " Com- 
mon Sense," and introduced it in that form into 
his publication. But there are other places where 
the Abbe has borrowed freely from the said 
pamphlet without acknowledging it. The differ- 
ence between society and government, with which 


the pamphlet opens, is taken from it, and in 
some expressions almost literally, into the Abbe's 
work, as if originally his own; and through the 
whole of the Abbe's remarks on this head, the 
idea in " Common Sense " is so closely copied 
and pursued, that the difference is only in words, 
and in the arrangement of the thoughts, and not 
in the thoughts themselves.* 

* Common Sense. 

" Some writers have so con- 
founded society with govern- 
ment, as to leave little or no 
distinction between them ; 
whereas they are not only dif- 
ferent, but have different ori- 

" Society is produced by our 
wants and governments by our 
wickedness; the former pro- 
motes our happiness positively, 
by uniting our affections — the 
latter negatively, by restraining 
our vices." 

In the following paragraphs there is less likeness in the language, 
but the ideas in the one are evidently copied from the other. 

Abbe Ratnal. 

" Care must be taken not to 
confound together society with 
government. That they may be 
known distinctly, their origin 
should be considered." 

" Society originates in the 
wants of men, government in 
their vices. Society tends al- 
ways to good — government 
ought always to tend to the re- 
pression of evil." 

" In order to gain a clear 
and just idea of the design 
and end of government, let us 
suppose a small number of per- 
sons, meeting in some seques- 
tered part of the earth, uncon- 
nected with the rest; they will 
then represent the peopling of 
any country or of the world. 
In this state of natural liberty, 
society will be their first 
thought. A thousand motives 

" Man, throwTi, as it were, 
by chance upon the globe, sur- 
rounded by all the evils of 
nature, obliged continually to 
defend and protect his life 
against the storms and tem- 
pests of the air, against the in- 
undations of water, against the 
fire of volcanoes, against the 
intemperance of frigid and tor- 
rid zones, against the sterility 
of the earth which refuses him 



But as it is time that I should come to the end 
of my letter, I shall forbear all future observa- 
tions on the Abbe's work, and take a concise view 

will excite them thereto. The 
strength of one man is so un- 
equal to his wants, and his 
mind so unfitted for perpetual 
solitude, that he is soon obliged 
to seek assistance of another, 
who, in his turn, requires the 
same. Four or five united 
would be able to raise a toler- 
able dwelling in the midst of a 
wilderness; but one man might 
labor out the common period 
of life, without accomplishing 
anything; after he has felled 
his timber, he could not remove 
it, nor erect it after it was re- 
moved — hunger, in the mean 
time would urge him from his 
work, and every different want 
call him a different way, 

" Disease, nay, even misfor- 
tune would be death — for al- 
though neither might be imme- 
diately mortal, yet either of them 
would disable him from living, 
and reduce him to a state in 
which he might rather be said 
to perish than to die. Thus 
necessity, like a gravitating 
power, would form our newly 
arrived emigrants into society, 
the reciprocal benefits of which 
would supersede and render 
the obligations of law and gov- 
ernment unnecessary, while they 
remained perfectly just to each 
other. But as nothing but 
heaven is impregnable to vice, 


aliment, or its baneful fecun- 
dity, which makes poison spring 
up beneath his feet — in short 
against the teeth and claws of 
savage beasts, who dispute with 
him his habitation and his prey, 
and, attacking his person, seem 
resolved to render themselves 
rulers of this globe, of which 
he thinks himself to be the 
master: Man, in this state, 
alone and abandoned to him- 
self, could do nothing for his 
preservation. It was necessary, 
therefore, that he should unite 
himself, and associate with his 
like, in order to bring together 
their strength and intelligence 
in common stock. 

" It is by this union that he 
has triumphed over so many 
evils, that he has fashioned this 
globe to his use, restrained the 
rivers, subjugated the seas, in- 
sured his subsistence, conquered 
a part of the animals in obliging 
them to serve him, and driven 
others far from his empire, to the 
depths of deserts or of woods, 
where their number diminishes 
from age to age. What a man 
alone would not have been able 
to effect, men have executed in 
concert: and altogether they 
preserve their work. Such is 
the origin, such the advantages, 
and the end of society. Gov- 
ernment owes its birth to the 


of the state of public affairs since the time in 
which that performance was published. 

A mind habituated to actions of meanness 
and injustice, commits them without reflection, 
or with a very partial one; for on what other 
ground than this, can we account for the declara- 
tion of war against the Dutch? To gain an idea 
of the politics which actuated the British Minis- 
try to this measure, we must enter into the opin- 
ion which they, and the English in general, had 
formed of the temper of the Dutch nation; and 
from thence infer what their expectation of the 
consequences would be. 

Could they have imagined that Holland 
would have seriously made a common cause with 
France, Spain and America, the British Minis- 
try would never have dared to provoke them. It 
would have been a madness in politics to have 
done so, unless their views were to hasten on a 

it unavoidably happens, that in necessity of preventing and re- 
proportion as they surmount pressing the injuries which the 
the first diflBculties of emigra- associated individuals had to 
tion, which bound them to- fear from one another. It is 
gether in a common cause, they the sentinel who watches, in 
will begin to relax in their order that the common labor- 
duty and attachment to each ers be not disturbed." 
other, and this remissness will 
point out the necessity of es- 
tablishing some form of gov- 
ernment to supply the defect 
of moral virtue." 



period of such emphatic distress, as should jus- 
tify the concessions which they saw they must 
one day or other make to the world, and for 
which they wanted an apology to themselves. 
There is a temper in some men which seeks a 
pretense for submission. Like a ship disabled in 
action, and unfitted to continue it, it waits the 
approach of a still larger one to strike to, and 
feels relief at the opportunity. Whether this is 
greatness or httleness of mind, I am not inquir- 
ing into. I should suppose it to be the latter, 
because it proceeds from the want of knowing 
how to bear misfortune in its original state. 

But the subsequent conduct of the British 
Cabinet has shown that this was not their plan 
of pontics, and consequently their motives must 
be sought for in another line. 

The truth is, that the British had formed a 
very humble opinion of the Dutch nation. They 
looked on them as a people who would submit 
to anything ; that they might insult them as they 
hked, plunder them as they pleased, and still the 
Dutch dared not to be provoked. 

If this be taken as the opinion of the British 
Cabinet, the measure is easily accounted for; be- 
cause it goes on the supposition, that when, by a 
declaration of hostilities, they had robbed the 


Dutch of some millions sterling, (and to rob 
them was popular,) they could make peace with 
them again whenever they pleased, and on almost 
any terms the British Ministry should propose. 
And no sooner was the plundering committed, 
than the accommodation was set on foot and 

When once the mind loses the sense of its 
own dignity, it loses, likewise, the ability of 
judging of it in another. And the American war 
has thrown Britain into such a variety of absurd 
situations, that, arguing from herself, she sees 
not in what conduct national dignity consists in 
other countries. From Holland she expected 
duplicity and submission, and this mistake arose 
from her having acted, in a number of instances 
during the present war, the same character her- 

To be allied to, or connected with, Britain 
seems to be an unsafe and impolitic situation. 
Holland and America are instances of the reality 
of this remark. Make those countries the allies 
of France or Spain, and Britain will court them 
with civility and treat them with respect; make 
them her own allies, and she will insult and plun- 
der them. In the first case, she feels some appre- 
hensions at offending them because they have 



support at hand; in the latter, those apprehen- 
sions do not exist. Such, however, has hitherto 
been her conduct. 

Another measure which has taken place since 
the publication of the Abbe's work, and likewise 
since the time of my beginning this letter, is the 
change in the British Ministry. What line the 
new Cabinet will pursue respecting America, is, 
at this time, unknown ; neither is it very material, 
unless they are seriously disposed to a general 
and honorable peace. 

Repeated experience has shown, not only the 
impracticability of conquering America, but 
the still higher impossibility of conquering her 
mind, or recalling her back to her former con- 
dition of thinking. Since the commencement of 
the war, which is now approaching to eight years, 
thousands and tens of thousands have advanced, 
and are daily advancing into the first state of 
manhood, who know nothing of Britain but as a 
barbarous enemy, and to whom the independence 
of America appears as much the natural and es- 
tablished government of the country, as that of 
England does to an Englishman. 

And, on the other hand, thousands of the 
aged, who had British ideas, have dropped, and 
are daily dropping, from the stage of business 


and life. The natural progress of generation 
and decay operates every hour to the disadvan- 
tage of Britain. Time and death, hard enemies 
to contend with, fight constantly against her in- 
terest; and the bills of mortality, in every part 
of America, are the thermometers of her decline. 
The children in the streets are from their cradle 
bred to consider her as their only foe. They hear 
of her cruelties ; of their fathers, uncles, and kin- 
dred killed; they see the remains of burned and 
destroyed houses, and the common tradition of 
the school they go to, tells them, those things 
were done by the British. 

These are circumstances which the mere Eng- 
lish state politician, w^ho considers man only in a 
state of manhood, does not attend to. He gets 
entangled with parties coeval or equal with him- 
self at home, and thinks not how fast the rising 
generation in America is growing beyond knowl- 
edge of them, or they of him. In a few years 
all personal remembrances will be lost, and who 
is king or minister in England, wall be httle 
known and scarcely inquired after. 

The new British Administration is composed 
of persons who have ever been against the war, 
and who have constantly reprobated all the vio- 
lent measures of the former one. They consid- 



ered the American war as destructive to them- 
selves, and opposed it on that ground. But what 
are these things to America? She has nothing to 
do with EngHsh parties. The ins and the outs are 
nothing to her. It is the whole country she is at 
war with, or must be at peace with. 

Were every minister in England a Chatham, 
it would now weigh little or nothing in the scale 
of American politics. Death has preserved to 
the memory of this statesman, that fame, which 
he, by living, would have lost. His plans and 
opinions, toward the latter part of his life, would 
have been attended with as many evil conse- 
quences, and as much reprobated here as those of 
Lord North; and considering him a wise man, 
they abound with inconsistencies amounting to 

It has apparently been the fault of many in 
the late minority to suppose that America would 
agree to certain terms with them, were they in 
place, which she would not even listen to, from 
the then Administration. This idea can answer 
no other purpose than to prolong the war; and 
Britain may, at the expense of many more mil- 
lions, learn the fatality of such mistakes. If the 
new Ministry wisely avoid this hopeless policy, 
they will prove themselves better pilots and wiser 


men than they are conceived to be ; for it is every 
day expected to see their bark strike upon some 
hidden rock and go to pieces. 

But there is a line in which they may be great. 
A more briUiant opening needs not to present 
itself; and it is such an one as true magnanimity 
would improve, and humanity rejoice in. 

A total reformation is wanted in England. 
She wants an expanded mind — a heart which 
embraces the universe. Instead of shutting her- 
self up in an island, and quarreling with the 
world, she would derive more lasting happiness, 
and acquire more real riches, by generously mix- 
ing with it, and bravely saying, I am the enemy 
of none. It is not now a time for little contriv- 
ances or artful politics. The European world is 
too experienced to be imposed upon, and America 
too wise to be duped. It must be something new 
and masterly that can succeed. The idea of 
seducing America from her independence, or cor- 
rupting her from her alliance, is a thought too 
little for a great mind, and impossible for any 
honest one, to attempt. Whenever politics are 
applied to debauch mankind from their integrity, 
and dissolve the virtue of human nature, they be- 
come detestable; and to be a statesman on this 
plan, is to be a commissioned villain. He who 
viii-19 267 


aims at it, leaves a vacancy in his character, v/hich 
may be filled up with the worst of epithets. 

If the disposition of England should be such, 
as not to agree to a general and honorable peace, 
and the war must, at all events, continue longer, 
I cannot help wishing that the alliances which 
America has or may enter into, may become the 
only objects of the war. She wants an oppor- 
tunity of showing to the world that she holds her 
honor as dear and sacred as her independence, 
and that she will in no situation forsake those 
whom no negotiations could induce to forsake 
her. Peace, to every reflecting mind, is a de- 
sirable object; but that peace which is accom- 
panied with a ruined character, becomes a crime 
to the seducer, and a curse upon the seduced. 

But where is the impossibility or even the 
great difficulty of England's forming a friend- 
ship with France and Spain, and making it a 
national virtue to renounce forever those preju- 
diced inveteracies it has been her custom to 
cherish; and which, while they serve to sink her 
with an increasing enormity of debt, by involving 
her in fruitless wars, become likewise the bane of 
her repose, and the destruction of her manners? 
We had once the fetters that she has now, but 


experience has shown us the mistake, and think- 
ing justly, has set us right. 

The true idea of a great nation, is that which 
extends and promotes the principles of universal 
society; whose mind rises above the atmosphere 
of local thoughts, and considers mankind, of 
whatever nation or profession they may be, as the 
work of one Creator. The rage for conquest has 
had its fashion, and its day. Why may not the 
amiable virtues have the same? The Alexanders 
and Cffisars of antiquity have left behind them 
their monuments of destruction, and are remem- 
bered with hatred ; while those more exalted char- 
acters, who first taught society and science, are 
blessed with the gratitude of every age and coun- 
try. Of more use was one philosopher, though 
a heathen, to the world, than all the heathen con- 
querors that ever existed. 

Should the present Revolution be distin- 
guished by opening a new system of extended 
civilization, it will receive from heaven the highest 
evidence of approbation; and as this is a subject 
to which the Abbe's powers are so eminently 
suited, I recommend it to his attention with the 
affection of a friend, and the ardor of a universal 




Since closing the foregoing letter, some inti- 
mations respecting a general peace have made 
their way to America. On what authority or 
foundation they stand, or how near or remote 
such an event may be, are circumstances I am 
not inquiring into. But as the subject must 
sooner or later become a matter of serious atten- 
tion, it may not be improper, even at this early 
period, candidly to investigate some points that 
are connected with it, or lead toward it. 

The independence of America is at this mo- 
ment as firmly established as that of any other 
country in a state of war. It is not length of 
time, but power that gives stability. Nations 
at war, know nothing of each other on the score 
of antiquity. It is their present and immediate 
strength, together with their connections, that 
must support them. To which we may add, that 
a right which originated to-day, is as much a 
right, as if it had the sanction of a thousand 
years; and therefore the independence and pres- 
ent governments of America are in no more dan- 
ger of being subverted, because they are modern, 
than that of England is secure, because it is 



The politics of Britain, so far as respects 
America, were originally conceived in idiotism, 
and acted in madness. There is not a step which 
bears the smallest trace of rationality. In her 
management of the war, she has labored to be 
wretched, and studied to be hated ; and in all her 
former propositions for accommodation, she has 
discovered a total ignorance of mankind, and of 
those natural and unalterable sensations by 
which they are so generally governed. How 
she may conduct herself in the present or future 
business of negotiating a peace, is yet to be 

He is a weak politician who does not under- 
stand human nature, and penetrate into the effect 
which measures of government will have upon 
the mind. All the miscarriages of Britain have 
arisen from this defect. The former Ministry 
acted as if they supposed mankind to be without 
a mind; and the present Ministry, as if America 
was without a memory. The one must have sup- 
posed we were incapable of feeling ; and the other 
that we could not remember injuries. 

There is likewise another line in which poli- 
ticians mistake, which is, that of not rightly cal- 
culating, or rather of misjudging, the conse- 
quences which any given circumstance will pro- 



duce. Nothing is more frequent, as well in com- 
mon as in political life, than to hear people com- 
plain, that such or such means produced an event 
directly contrary to their intentions. But the 
fault lies in their not judging rightly what the 
event would be ; for the means produced only its 
proper and natural consequences. 

It is very probable that, in a treaty of peace, 
Britain will contend for some post or other in 
North America, perhaps Canada or Halifax, or 
both : and I infer this from the known deficiency 
of her poHtics, which have ever yet made use of 
means whose natural event was against both her 
interest and her expectation. But the question 
with her ought to be, whether it is worth her while 
to hold them, and what will be the consequences. 

Respecting Canada, one or other of the two 
following will take place, viz. : If Canada should 
become populous, it will revolt ; and if it does not 
become so, it wiU not be worth the expense of 
holding. And the same may be said of Hahf ax, 
and the country round it. But Canada never will 
be populous ; neither is there any occasion for con- 
trivances on one side or the other, for nature alone 
will do the whole. 

Britain may put herself to great expenses in 
sending settlers to Canada; but the descendants 


of those settlers will be Americans, as other de- 
scendants have been before them. They will 
look round and see the neighboring states sov- 
ereign and free, respected abroad and trading at 
large with the world ; and the natural love of lib- 
erty, the advantages of commerce, the blessings 
of independence, and of a happier climate, and a 
richer soil, will draw them southward; and the 
effect will be, that Britain will sustain the ex- 
pense, and America reap the advantage. 

One would think that the experience which 
Britain has had of America, would entirely sicken 
her of all thoughts of continental colonization, 
and any part she might retain will only become 
to her a field of jealousy and thorns, of debate 
and contention, forever struggling for privi- 
leges, and meditating revolt. She may form new 
settlements, but they will be for us ; they will be- 
come part of the United States of America ; and 
that against all her contrivances to prevent it, or 
without any endeavors of ours to promote it. 
In the first place she cannot draw from them a 
revenue, until they are able to pay one, and when 
they are so they will be above subjection. Men 
soon become attached to the soil they live upon, 
and incorporated^with the prosperity of the place : 

and it signifies^but little what opinions they come 



over with, for time, interest, and new connections 
will render them obsolete, and the next genera- 
tion know nothing of them. 

Were Britain truly wise, she would lay hold 
of the present opportunity to disentangle herself 
from all continental embarrassments in North 
America, and that not only to avoid future broils 
and troubles, but to save expenses. To speak 
explicitly on the matter, I would not, were I an 
European power, have Canada, under the con- 
ditions that Britain must retain it, could it be 
given to me. It is one of those kind of dominions 
that is, and ever will be, a constant charge upon 
any foreign holder. 

As to Halifax, it will become useless to Eng- 
land after the present war, and the loss of the 
United States. A harbor, when the dominion is 
gone, for the purpose of which only it was 
wanted, can be attended only with expense. 
There are, I doubt not, thousands of people in 
England, who suppose, that these places are a 
profit to the nation, whereas they are directly the 
contrary, and instead of producing any revenue, 
a considerable part of the revenue of England 
is annually drawn off, to support the expense of 
holding them. 

Gibraltar is another instance of national ill- 


policy. A post which in time of peace is not 
wanted, and in time of war is of no use, must at 
all times be useless. Instead of affording pro- 
tection to a navy, it requires the aid of one to 
maintain it. To suppose that Gibraltar com- 
mands the Mediterranean, or the pass into it, or 
the trade of it, is to suppose a detected falsehood ; 
because though Britain holds the post she has lost 
the other three, and every benefit she expected 
from it. And to say that all this happens because 
it is besieged by land and water, is to say nothing, 
for this will always be the case in time of war, 
while France and Spain keep up superior fleets, 
and Britain holds the place. So that, though, as 
an impenetrable, inaccessible rock, it may be held 
by the one, it is always in the power of the other 
to render it useless and excessively chargeable. 

I should suppose that one of the principal 
objects of Spain in besieging it, is to show to 
Britain, that though she may not take it, she can 
command it, that is she can shut it up, and prevent 
its being used as a harbor, though not as a garri- 
son. But the short way to reduce Gibraltar is to 
attack the British fleet; for Gibraltar is as de- 
pendent on a fleet for support, as a bird is on its 
wing for food, and when wounded there it starves. 

There is another circumstance which the peo- 



pie of England have not only not attended to, 
but seem to be utterly ignorant of, and that is, 
the difference between permanent power and ac- 
cidental power, considered in a national sense. 

By permanent power, I mean, a natural, in- 
herent, and perpetual ability in a nation, which 
though always in being, may not be always in 
action, or not advantageously directed; and by 
accidental power, I mean, a fortunate or acci- 
dental disposition or exercise of national strength, 
in whole or in part. 

There undoubtedly was a time when any one 
European nation, with only eight or ten ships of 
war, equal to the present ships of the line, could 
have carried terror to all others, who had not be- 
gun to build a navy, however great their natural 
ability might be for that purpose: but this can 
be considered only as accidental, and not as a 
standard to compare permanent power by, and 
could last no longer than until those powers built 
as many or more ships than the former. After 
this a larger fleet was necessary, in order to be 
superior; and a still larger would again super- 
sede it. And thus mankind have gone on build- 
ing fleet upon fleet, as occasion or situation dic- 
tated. And this reduces it to an original ques- 
tion, which is: Which power can build and man 


the largest number of ships? The natural ans- 
wer to which is, that power which has the largest 
revenue and the greatest number of inhabitants, 
provided its situation of coast affords sufficient 

France being a nation on the continent of 
Europe, and Britain an island in its neighbor- 
hood, each of them derived different ideas from 
their different situations. The inhabitants of 
Britain could carry on no foreign trade, nor stir 
from the spot they dwelt upon, without the assist- 
ance of shipping; but this was not the case with 
France. The idea therefore of a navy did not 
arise to France from the same original and imme- 
diate necessity which produced it to England. 
But the question is, that when both of them turn 
their attention, and employ their revenues the 
same way, which can be superior? 

The annual revenue of France is nearly dou- 
ble that of England, and her number of inhab- 
itants more than twice as many. Each of them 
has the same length of coast on the Channel, be- 
sides which, France has several hundred miles 
extent on the Bay of Biscay, and an opening on 
the Mediterranean: and every day proves that 
practise and exercise make sailors, as well as sol- 
diers, in one country as well as another. 



If, then, Britain can maintain a hundred ships 
of the hne, France can as well support a hundi'ed 
and fifty, because her revenue and her popula- 
tion are as equal to the one, as those of England 
are to the other. And the only reason why she 
has not done it, is because she has not till very 
lately attended to it. But when she sees, as she 
now does, that a navy is the first engine of 
power, she can easily accomplish it. 

England, very falsely, and ruinously for her- 
self, infers, that because she had the advantage 
of France, while France had the smaller navy, 
that for that reason it is always to be so. Where- 
as it may be clearly seen, that the strength of 
France has never yet been tried on a navy, and 
that she is able to be as superior to England in 
the extent of a navy, as she is in the extent of 
her revenues and her population. And England 
may lament the day, when, by her insolence and 
injustice, she provoked in France a maritime 

It is in the power of the combined fleets to 
conquer every island in the West Indies, and re- 
duce all the British Navy in those places. For 
were France and Spain to send their whole naval 
force in Europe to those islands, it would not be 
in the power of Britain to follow them with an 


equal force. She would still be twenty or thirty 
ships inferior, were she to send every vessel she 
had, and in the meantime all the foreign trade of 
England would lay exposed to the Dutch. 

It is a maxim which, I am persuaded, will ever 
hold good, and more especially in naval opera- 
tions, that a great power ought never to move in 
detachments, if it can possibly be avoided ; but to 
go with its whole force to some important object, 
the reduction of which shall have a decisive effect 
upon the war. Had the whole of the French 
and Spanish fleets in Europe come last spring to 
the West Indies, every island had been their own, 
Rodney their prisoner, and his fleet their prize. 
From the United States the combined fleets can 
be supplied with provisions, without the necessity 
of drawing them from Europe, which is not the 
case with England. 

Accident has thrown some advantages in the 
way of England, which, from the inferiority of 
her navy, she had not a right to expect. For 
though she had been obliged to fly before the 
combined fleets, yet Rodney has twice had the 
fortune to fall in with detached squadrons, to 
which he was superior in numbers: the first off 
Cape St. Vincent, where he had nearly two to 
one, and the other in the West Indies, where he 



had a majority of six ships. Victories of this 
kind almost produce themselves. They are won 
without honor, and suffered without disgrace: 
and are ascribable to the chance of meeting, not 
to the superiority of fighting. For the same ad- 
miral, under whom they were obtained, was un- 
able, in three former engagements, to make the 
least impression on a fleet consisting of an equal 
number of ships with his own, and compounded 
for the events by declining the actions.* 

To conclude: if it may be said that Britain 
has numerous enemies, it likewise proves that 
she has given numerous offenses. Insolence is 
sure to provoke hatred, whether in a nation or 
an individual. That want of manners in the 
British Court may be seen even in its birthdays' 
and New Year's odes, which are calculated to in- 
fatuate the vulgar, and disgust the man of re- 
finement: and her former overbearing rudeness, 
and insufferable injustice on the seas, have made 
every commercial nation her foe. Her fleets 
were employed as engines of prey, and acted on 
the surface of the deep the character which the 
shark does beneath it. On the other hand, the 

* See the accounts, either English or French, of three actions, 
in the West Indies, between Count de Guichen and Admiral Rod- 
ney, in 1780. 



combined powers are taking a popular part, and 
will render their reputation immortal, by estab- 
lishing the perfect freedom of the ocean, to 
which all countries have a right, and are inter- 
ested in accomplishing. The sea is the world's 
highway; and he who arrogates a prerogative 
over it, transgresses the right, and justly brings 
on himself the chastisement of nations. 

Perhaps it might be of some service to the 
future tranquillity of mankind, were an article 
introduced into the next general peace, that no 
one nation should, in time of peace, exceed a 
certain number of ships of war. Something of 
this kind seems necessary; for according to the 
present fashion, half of the world will get upon 
the water, and there appears to be no end to the 
extent to which navies may be carried. Another 
reason is, that navies add nothing to the manners 
or morals of a people. The sequestered life which 
attends the service, prevents the opportunities of 
society, and is too apt to occasion a coarseness of 
ideas and of language, and that more in ships 
of war than in the commercial employ; because 
in the latter they mix more with the world, and 
are nearer related to it. I mention this remark 
as a general one: and not applied to any one 
country more than to another. 



Britain has now had the trial of above seven 
years, with an expense of nearly an hundred mil- 
lion pounds sterling; and every month in which 
she delays to conclude a peace costs her another 
million sterling, over and above her ordinary ex- 
penses of government, which are a million more ; 
so that her total monthly expense is two million 
pounds sterling, which is equal to the whole 
yearly expenses of America, all charges included. 
Judge then who is best able to continue it. 

She has likewise many atonements to make to 
an injured world, as well in one quarter as in 
another. And instead of pursuing that temper 
of arrogance, which serves only to sink her in the 
esteem, and entail on her the dislike of all nations, 
she would do well to reform her manners, re- 
trench her expenses, live peaceably with her 
neighbors, and think of war no more. 

Philadelphia, August 21, 1782, 



The following correspondence took place at 
this time between Paine and Wasliington. 

g BoRDENTOw^N^ Sept. 7, 1782. 

I have the honor of presenting you with 
fifty copies of my Letter to the Abbe Raynal, 
for the use of the army, and to repeat to you my 
acknowledgments for your friendship. 

I fully believe we have seen our worst days 
over. The spirit of the war, on the part of the 
enemy, is certainly on the decline, full as much as 
we think for. I draw this opinion not only from 
the present promising appearance of things, and 
the difficulties we know the British Cabinet is in ; 
but I add to it the peculiar effect which certain 
periods of time have, more or less, upon all men. 

The British have accustomed themselves to 
think of seven years in a manner different to 
other portions of time. They acquire this partly 
by habit, by reason, by religion, and by super- 
stition. They serve seven years apprenticeship 
— they elect their Parliament for seven years — 
they punish by seven years transportation, or the 
duplicate or triplicate of that term — they let their 
leases in the same manner, and they read that 
Jacob served seven years for one wife, and after 
that seven years for another; and this particular 
viii-20 283 


period of time, by a variety of concurrences, has 
obtained an influence in their minds. 

They have now had seven years of war, and 
are no further on the continent than when they 
began. The superstitious and populous parts 
will therefore conclude that it is not to be, and the 
rational part of them will think they have tried 
an unsuccessful and expensive project long 
enough, and by these two joining issue in the 
same eventful opinion, the obstinate part among 
them will be beaten out; unless, consistent with 
their former sagacity, they should get over the 
matter by an act of Parliament, ^Ho bind time 
in all cases whatsoever" or declare him a rebel. 

1 observe the aff*air of Captain Asgill seems 
to die away: — very probably it has been pro- 
tracted on the part of Clinton and Carleton, to 
gain time, to state the case to the British Ministry, 
where following close on that of Colonel Haynes, 
it will create new embarrassment to them. For 
my own part, I am fully persuaded that a suspen- 
sion of his fate, still holding it in terrorem, will 
operate on a greater quantity of their passions 
and vices, and restrain them more than his execu- 
tion would do. However, the change of meas- 
ures which seems now to be taking place, gives 
somewhat of a new cast to former designs; and 


if the case, without the execution, can be so man- 
aged as to answer all the purposes of the latter, 
it will look much better hereafter, when the sen- 
sations that now provoke, and the circumstances 
that would justify his exit, shall be forgotten. 

I am your Excellency's obliged and obed- 
ient humble servant, 

Thomas Paine. 

His Excellency General Washington. 

Headquarters^ Verplanck's Point, 
gj^. Sept. 18, 1782. 

I have the pleasure to acknowledge your 
favor of the seventh inst., informing me of your 
proposal to present me with fifty copies of your 
last publication, for the amusement of the army. 

For this intention you have my sincere thanks, 
no only on my own account, but for the pleasure, 
I doubt not, the gentlemen of the army will re- 
ceive from the perusal of your pamphlets. 

Your observations on the period of seven 
years, as it applies itself to, and affects British 
minds, are ingenious, and I wish it may not fail 
of its effects in the present instance. The meas- 
ures, and the policy of the enemy, are at present 
in great perplexity and embarrassment — but I 



have my fears, whether their necessities (which 
are the only operative motive with them) are 
yet arrived to that point, which must drive them 
unavoidably into what they will esteem disagree- 
able and dishonorable terms of peace — such, for 
instance, as an absolute, unequivocal admission of 
American Independence, upon the terms on 
which she can alone accept it. 

For this reason, added to the obstinacy of the 
king — and the probable consonant principles of 
some of his principal ministers, I have not so full 
a confidence in the success of the present negotia- 
tion for peace as some gentlemen entertain. 

Should events prove my jealousies to be iU 
founded, I shall make myself happy under the 
mistake — consoHng myself with the idea of hav- 
ing erred on the safest side, and enjoying with 
as much satisfaction as any of my countrymen, 
the pleasing issue of our severe contest. 

The case of Captain Asgill has indeed been 
spun out to a great length — but, with you, I 
hope that its termination will not be unfavor- 
able to this country. 

I am. Sir, with great esteem and regard. 
Your most obedient servant, 

G. Washington. 

Thomas Paine^ Esq. 

\^ = AS PAINE 

!> •>, whether til 'ties (which 

a;- > . . operative mc i'>^^m) are 

' t Tirrived to that point, v i ^ them 

idably into what thev -as^ree- 

nd dishonorable terms o for 

ce, as an absolute, unequ ' f 

Vmerican Independence, upon the t^rw.s on 

which she can alone accept it. 

For this reason, added to the obstinacy ot the 
king — and the probable consonant principles of 
some of his principal ministers, I have not so full 
a confidence in'^ttl¥J(Pc(?&^Wftfe present negotia- 
tion ^^&imm i6m ^^^^meh M^Um. 

Should events prove my jealousies to be ill 
founded, I shall make myself happy under the 

with the idea of hav- 
ing erred on the safest side, and enjoying with 
as much satisfaction as any of my countrymen, 
the pleasing issue of our severe contest. 

The case of Captain Asgill has indeea CKren 
spun out to a great length — but, v- *' ^ -, I 
hope that its termination ^^ *^' >' or- 

p.h]f' to this country. 

I am. Sir, with pr 'v. nnd regard. 

Your most < 


IAS Paink. Esq. 


On Government; the Affairs of the Bank; 
AND Paper Money 


1HERE present the public with a new per- 
formance. Some parts of it are more par- 
ticularly adapted to the state of Pennsylvania, 
on the present state of its affairs; but there are 
others which are on a larger scale. The time 
bestowed on this work has not been long, the 
whole of it being written and printed during the 
short recess of the Assembly.* 

As to parties, merely considered as such, I 
am attached to no particular one. There are 
such things as right and wrong in the world, and 
so far as these are parties against each other, 
the signature of Common Sense is properly em- 

Thomas Paine. 

Philadelphia, Feb. 18, 1786. 

*From December 22, 1785 to February 18, 1786. 



in^VERY government, let its form be what 
-■--' it may, contains within itself a principle 
common to all, which is, that of a sovereign 
power, or a power over which there is no con- 
trol, and which controls all others; and as it is 
impossible to construct a form of government 
in which this power does not exist, so there must 
of necessity be a place, if it may be so called, for 
it to exist in. 

In despotic monarchies this power is lodged 
in a single person, or sovereign. His will is law ; 
which he declares, alters or revokes as he pleases, 
without being accountable to any power for so 
doing. Therefore, the only modes of redress, 
in countries so governed, are by petition or in- 
surrection. And this is the reason we so fre- 
quently hear of insurrections in despotic govern- 
ments ; for as there are but two modes of redress, 
this is one of them. 

Perhaps it may be said that as the united re- 
sistance of the people is able, by force, to con- 
trol the will of the sovereign, that therefore, 
the controlling power lodges in them; but it 


must be understood that I am speaking of such 
powers only as are constituent parts of the gov- 
ernment, not of those powers which are external- 
ly applied to resist and overturn it. 

In republics, such as those established in 
America, the sovereign power, or the power over 
which there is no control, and which controls all 
others, remains where nature placed it — in the 
people; for the people in America are the foun- 
tain of power. It remains there as a matter of 
right, recognized in the constitutions of the coun- 
try, and the exercise of it is constitutional and 
legal. This sovereignty is exercised in electing 
and deputing a certain number of persons to rep- 
resent and act for the whole, and who, if they do 
not act right, may be displaced by the same pow- 
er that placed them there, and others elected and 
deputed in their stead, and the wrong measures 
of former representatives corrected and brought 
right by this means. Therefore, the republican 
form and principle leaves no room for insurrec- 
tion, because it provides and establishes a right- 
ful means in its stead. 

In countries under a despotic form of govern- 
ment, the exercise of this power is an assumption 
of sovereignty; a wresting it from the person in 
whose hand their form of government has placed 



it, and the exercise of it is there styled rebelHon. 
Therefore the despotic form of government 
knows no intermediate space between being 
slaves and being rebels. 

I shall in this place offer an observation which, 
though not immediately connected with my sub- 
ject, is very naturally deduced from it, which is 
that the nature, if I may so call it, of a govern- 
ment over any people, may be ascertained from 
the modes which the people pursue to obtain re- 
dress of grievances; for like causes will produce 
like effects. And therefore the government 
which Britain attempted to erect over America 
could be no other than a despotism, because it 
left to the Americans no other modes of redress 
than those which are left to people under despotic 
governments, petition and resistance: and the 
Americans, without ever attending to a compari- 
son on the case, went into the same steps which 
such people go into, because no other could be 
pursued: and this similarity of effects leads up 
to, and ascertains the similarity of the causes or 
governments which produced them. 

But to return. The repository where the 

sovereign power is placed is the first criterion of 

distinction between a country under a despotic 

form of government and a free country. In a 



country under a despotic government, the sov- 
ereign is the only free man in it. In a repubhc, 
the people, retaining the sovereignty themselves, 
naturally and necessarily retain their freedom 
with it: for wherever the sovereignty is, there 
must the freedom be. 

As the repository where the sovereign power 
is lodged is the first criterion of distinction, so 
the second is the principles on which it is ad- 

A despotic government knows no principle 
but will. Whatever the sovereign wills to do, the 
government admits him the inherent right, and 
the uncontrolled power of doing. He is restrain- 
ed by no fixed rule of right and wrong, for he 
makes the right and wrong himself, and as he 
pleases. If he happens (for a miracle may hap- 
pen) to be a man of consummate wisdom, justice 
and moderation, of a mild affectionate disposi- 
tion, disposed to business, and understanding and 
promoting the general good, all the beneficial 
purposes of government will be answered under 
his administration, and the people so governed, 
may, while this is the case, be prosperous and 

But as there can be no security that this dis- 
position will last, and this administration con- 



tinue, and still less security that his successor 
shall have the same quahties and pursue the same 
measures; therefore, no people exercising their 
reason, and understanding their rights, would, of 
their own choice, invest any one man with such a 

Neither is it consistent to suppose the knowl- 
edge of any one man competent to the exercise 
of such a power. A sovereign of this sort, is 
brought up in such a distant line of life ; lives so 
remote from the people, and from a knowledge 
of everything which relates to their local situa- 
tions and interests, that he can know nothing 
from experience and observation, and all which 
he does know, he must be told. 

Sovereign power without sovereign knowl- 
edge, that is, a full knowledge of all the matters 
over which that power is to be exercised, is a 
something which contradicts itself. 

There is a species of sovereign power in a 
single person, which is very proper when ap- 
plied to a commander-in-chief over an army, so 
far as relates to the military government of an 
army, and the condition and purpose of an army 
constitute the reason why it is so. In an army 
every man is of the same profession; that is, he 
is a soldier, and the commander-in-chief is a sol- 


dier too; therefore, the knowledge necessary to 
the exercise of the power is within himself. By 
understanding what a soldier is, he comprehends 
the local situation, interest and duty of every man 
within what may be called the dominion of his 
command; and, therefore, the condition and cir- 
cumstances of an army make a fitness for the ex- 
ercise of the power. 

The purpose, likewise, or object of an army, 
is another reason : for this power in a commander- 
in-chief, though exercised over the army, is not 
exercised against it; but is exercised through or 
over the army against the enemy. Therefore, 
the enemy, and not the people, is the object it is 
directed to. Neither is it exercised over an army 
for the purpose of raising a revenue from it, but 
to promote its combined interest, condense its 
powers, and give it capacity for action. 

But all these reasons cease when sovereign 
power is transferred from the commander of an 
army to the commander of a nation, and entirely 
loses its fitness when applied to govern subjects 
following occupations, as it governs soldiers fol- 
lowing arms. 

A nation is quite another element, and every- 
thing in it differs not only from each other, but 
all of them differ from those of an army. A na- 



tion is composed of distinct, unconnected in- 
dividuals, following various trades, employments 
and pursuits; continually meeting, crossing, uni- 
ting, opposing and separating from each other, 
as accident, interest and circumstance shall direct. 
An army has but one occupation and but one 

Another very material matter in which an 
army and a nation differ, is that of temper. An 
army may be said to have but one temper; for 
however the natural temper of the persons com- 
posing the army may differ from each other, 
there is a second temper takes place of the first: 
a temper formed by discipline, mutuality of hab- 
its, union of objects and pursuits, and the style 
of military manners: but this can never be the 
case among all the individuals of a nation. 
Therefore, the fitness, arising from those circum- 
stances, which disposes an army to the command 
of a single person, and the fitness of a single per- 
son for that command, is not to be found either 
in one or the other, when we come to consider 
them as a sovereign and a nation. 

Having already shown what a despotic gov- 
ernment is, and how it is administered, I now 
come to show what the administration of a re- 
public is. 


The administration of a republic is supposed 
to be directed by certain fundamental principles 
of right and j ustice, from which there cannot, be- 
cause there ought not to, be any deviation; and 
whenever any deviation appears, there is a kind 
of stepping out of the republican principle, and 
an approach toward the despotic one. This ad- 
ministration is executed by a select number of 
persons, periodically chosen by the people, who 
act as representatives and in behalf of the whole, 
and who are supposed to enact the same laws 
and to pursue the same line of administration, 
as the people would do were they all assembled 

The public good is to be their object. It is 
therefore necessary to understand what public 
good is. 

Public good is not a term opposed to the good 
of individuals; on the contrary, it is the good of 
every individual collected. It is the good of all, 
because it is the good of everyone: for as the 
public body is every individual collected, so the 
public good is the collected good of those indi- 

The foundation-principle of public good is 
justice, and wherever justice is impartially ad- 
ministered, the public good is promoted ; for as it 



is to the good of every man that no injustice be 
done to him, so likewise it is to his good that the 
principle which secures him should not be violat- 
ed in the person of another, because such a viola- 
tion weakens his security, and leaves to chance 
what ought to be to him a rock to stand on. 

But in order to understand more minutely, 
how the public good is to be promoted, and the 
manner in which the representatives are to act 
to promote it, we must have recourse to the orig- 
inal or first principles, on which the people form- 
ed themselves into a republic. 

When a people agree to form themselves into 
a republic (for the word republic means the pub- 
lic good, or the good of the whole, in contradis- 
tinction to the despotic form, which makes the 
good of the sovereign, or of one man, the only 
object of the government), when I say, they 
agree to do this, it is to be understood that they 
mutually resolve and pledge themselves to each 
other, rich and poor alike, to support and main- 
tain this rule of equal justice among them. They 
therefore renounce not only the despotic form, 
but despotic principle, as well of governing as 
of being governed by mere will and power, and 
substitute in its place a government of justice. 

By this mutual compact, the citizens of a re- 


public put it out of their power, that is, they re- 
nounce, as detestable, the power of exercising, 
at any future time any species of despotism over 
each other, or doing a thing not right in itself, 
because a majority of them may have strength 
of numbers sufficient to accomplish it. 

In this pledge and compact* lies the founda- 

*This pledge and compact is contained in the declaration of 
rights prefixed to the constitution (of Pennsylvania), and is as 
follows : 

I. That all men are born equally free and independent, and 
have certain natural, inherent and unalienable rights, amongst 
which are, the enjoying and defending life and liberty, acquir- 
ing, possessing and protecting property, and pursuing and ob- 
taining happiness and safety. 

II. That all men have a natural and unalienable right to 
worship Almighty God, according to the dictates of their own 
consciences and understanding: and that no man ought or of 
right can be compelled to attend any religious worship, or erect 
or support any place of worship, or maintain any ministry, 
contrary to, or against his own free will and consent: nor can 
any man, who acknowledges the being of a God, be justly deprived 
or abridged of any civil right as a citizen, on account of his 
religious sentiments or peculiar mode of religious worship: and 
that no authority can or ought to be vested in, or assumed by, 
any power whatever, that shall in any case interfere with, or 
in any manner control, the right of conscience in the free exer- 
cise of religious worship. 

III. That the people of this State have the sole, exclusive 
and inherent right of governing and regulating the internal 
police of the same. 

IV. That all power being originally inherent in, and conse- 
quently derived from, the people; therefore, all oflBcers of govern- 
ment, whether legislative or executive, are their trustees and 
servants, and at all times accountable to them. 

V. That government is, or ought to be, instituted for the 
common benefit, protection and security of the people, nation 
or community; and not for the particular emolument or ad- 



tion of the republic: and the security to the rich 
and the consolation to the poor is, that what each 
man has is his own; that no despotic sovereign 
can take it from him, and that the common ce- 

vantage of any single man, family, or set of men, who are a 
part only of that community; and that the community hath an 
indubitable, unalienable and indefeasible right to reform, alter 
or abolish government in such manner as shall be by that com- 
munity judged most conducive to the public weal. 

VI. That those who are employed in the legislative and ex- 
ecutive business of the state may be restrained from oppression, 
the people have a right, at such periods as they may think proper 
to reduce their public oflficers to a private station, and supply the 
vacancies by certain and regular elections. 

VII. That all elections ought to be free; and that all free 
men having a suflBcient evident common interest with, and attach- 
ment to the community, have a right to elect officers, or to be 
elected into office. 

VIII. That every member of society hath a right to be pro- 
tected in the enjoyment of life, liberty and property, and there- 
fore is bound to contribute his proportion toward the expense 
of that protection, and yield his personal service when necessary, 
or an equivalent thereto; but no part of a man's property can 
be justly taken from him, or applied to public uses, without his 
own consent, or that of his legal representatives; nor can any 
man who is conscientiously scrupulous of bearing arms, be justly 
compelled thereto, if he will pay such equivalent; nor are the 
people bound by any laws, but such as they have in like manner 
assented to, for their common good. 

IX. That in all prosecutions for criminal oflFenses, a man hath 
a right to be heard by himself and his counsel, to demand the 
cause and nature of his accusation, to be confronted with the 
witnesses, to call for evidence in his favor, and a speedy public 
trial, by an impartial jury of the country, without the unanimous 
consent of which jury he cannot be found guilty; nor can he 
be compelled to give evidence against himself; nor can any man 
be justly deprived of his liberty, except by the laws of the 
land, or the judgment of his peers. 

X. That the people have a right to hold themselves, their 
houses, papers, and possessions free from search and seizure j and 



meriting principle which holds all the parts of 
a republic together, secures him likewise from the 
despotism of numbers: for despotism may be 
more effectually acted by many over a few, than 
by one man over all. 

therefore warrants without oaths or affirmations, first made, 
aflFording a sufficient foundation for them, and whereby any 
officer or messenger may be commanded or required to search 
suspected places, or to seize any person or persons, his or their 
property, not particularly described, are contrary to that right, 
and ought not to be granted. 

XI. That in controversies respecting property, and in suits 
between man and man, the parties have a right to trial by 
jury, which ought to be held sacred. 

XII. That the people have a right to freedom of speech, and 
of writing and publishing their sentiments; therefore the free- 
dom of the press ought not to be restrained. 

XIII. That the people have a right to bear arms for the 
defense of themselves and the state — and as standing armies, 
in the time of peace, are dangerous to liberty, they ought not 
to be kept up — and that the military should be kept under a 
strict subordination to, and governed by, the civil power. 

XIV. That a frequent recurrence to fundamental principles, 
and a firm adherence to justice, moderation, temperance, in- 
dustry and frugality are absolutely necessary to preserve the 
blessings of liberty and keep a government free — the people ought 
therefore to pay particular attention to these points in the 
choice of officers and representatives, and have a right to exact 
a due and constant regard to them, from their legislators and 
magistrates, in the making and executing such laws as are neces- 
sary for the good government of the state. 

XV. That all men have a natural inherent right to emigrate 
from one state to another that will receive them, or to form 
a new state in vacant countries, or in such countries as they can 
purchase, whenever they think that thereby they may promote 
their own happiness. 

XVI. That the people have a right to assemble together, to 
consult for their common good, to instruct their representatives, 
nnd to apply to the Legislature for redress or grievances, by ad- 
dress, petition, or remonstrance. 

VIII— 11 299 


Therefore, in order to know how far the pow- 
er of an assembly, or a house of representa- 
tives can act in administering the affairs of a 
republic, we must examine how far the power of 
the people extends under the original compact 
they have made with each other ; for the power of 
the representatives is in many cases less, but 
never can be greater than that of the people rep- 
resented; and whatever the people in their mu- 
tual, original compact have renounced the power 
of doing toward, or acting over each other, the 
representatives cannot assume the power to do, 
because, as I have already said, the power of the 
representatives cannot be greater than that of 
the people they represent. 

In this place it naturally presents itself that 
the people in their original compact of equal 
justice or first principles of a republic, renounced 
as despotic, detestable and unjust, the assum- 
ing a right of breaking and violating their en- 
gagements, contracts and compacts with, or de- 
frauding, imposing or tyrannizing over each 
other, and therefore the representatives cannot 
make an act to do it for them, and any such kind 
of act would be an attempt to depose not the 
personal sovereign, but the sovereign principle 


of the republic, and to introduce despotism in its 

It may in this place be proper to distinguish 
between that species of sovereignty which is 
claimed and exercised by despotic monarchs, and 
that sovereignty which the citizens of a republic 
inherit and retain. The sovereignty of a des- 
potic monarch assumes the power of making 
wrong right, or right wrong, as he pleases or as 
it suits him. The sovereignty in a republic is 
exercised to keep right and wrong in their prop- 
er and distinct places, and never suffer the one 
to usurp the place of the other. A republic, 
properly understood, is a sovereignty of justice, 
in contradistinction to a sovereignty of will. 

Our experience in republicanism is yet so 
slender, that it is much to be doubted, whether 
all our public laws and acts are consistent with, 
or can be justified on, the principles of a repub- 
lican government. 

We have been so much habited to act in com- 
mittees at the commencement of the dispute, and 
during the interregnum of government, and in 
many cases since, and to adopt expedients war- 
ranted by necessity, and to permit to ourselves 
a discretionary use of power, suited to the spur 
and exigency of the moment, that a man trans- 



f erred from a committee to a seat in the legisla- 
ture, imperceptibly takes with him the ideas and 
habits he has been accustomed to, and continues 
to think like a committee-man instead of a legis- 
lator, and to govern by the spirit rather than by 
the rule of the Constitution and the principles of 
the republic. 

Having already stated that the power of the 
representatives can never exceed the power of 
the people whom they represent, I now proceed to 
examine more particularly, what the power of the 
representatives is. 

It is, in the first place, the power of acting as 
legislators in making laws — and in the second 
place, the power of acting in certain cases, as 
agents or negotiators for the commonwealth, for 
such purposes as the circumstances of the com- 
monwealth require. 

A very strange confusion of ideas, danger- 
ous to the credit, stability, and the good and hon- 
or of the commonwealth, has arisen, by confound- 
ing those two distinct powers and things together 
and blending every act of the assembly, of what- 
ever kind it may be, under one general name, of 
Laws of the Commonwealth, and thereby creat- 
ing an opinion (which is truly of the despotic 
kind) that every succeeding assembly has an 


equal power over every transaction, as well as 
law, done by a former assembly. 

All laws are acts, but all acts are not laws. 
Many of the acts of the assembly are acts of 
agency or negotiation, that is, they are acts of 
contract and agreement, on the part of the state, 
with certain persons therein mentioned, and for 
certain purposes therein recited. An act of this 
kind, after it has passed the house, is of the na- 
ture of a deed or contract, signed, sealed and de- 
livered; and subject to the same general laws and 
principles of justice as all other deeds and con- 
tracts are: for in a transaction of this kind, the 
state stands as an individual, and can be known 
in no other character in a court of justice. 

By 'laws" as distinct from the agency trans- 
actions, or matters of negotiation, are to be com- 
prehended all those public acts of the assembly or 
commonwealth, which have a universal operation, 
or apply themselves to every individual of the 
commonwealth. Of this kind are the laws for 
the distribution and administration of justice, for 
the preservation of the peace, for the security of 
property, for raising the necessary revenue by 
just proportions, etc. 

Acts of this kind are properly lawSj, and they 
may be altered, amended and repealed, or others 



substituted in their places, as experience shall 
direct, for the better effecting the purpose for 
which they were intended: and the right and 
power of the assembly to do this is derived from 
the right and power which the people, were they 
all assembled together, instead of being repre- 
sented, would have to do the same thing: be- 
cause, in acts or laws of this kind, there is no 
other party than the public. 

The law, or the alteration, or the repeal, is for 
themselves ; — and whatever the effects may be, it 
falls on themselves ; — if for the better, they have 
the benefit of it — if for the worse, they suffer the 
inconvenience. No violence to anyone is here of- 
fered — no breach of faith is here committed. It 
is therefore one of those rights and powers which 
is within the sense, meaning and limits of the 
original compact of justice which they formed 
with each other as the foundation-principle of 
the republic, and being one of those rights and 
powers, it devolves on their representatives by 

As it is not my intention (neither is it withir^ 
the limits assigned to this work) to define every 
species of what may be called laws (but rather to 
distinguish that part in which the representa- 
tives act as agents or negotiators for the state 


from the legislative part) I shall pass on to dis- 
tinguish and describe those acts of the assembly 
which are acts of agency or negotiation, and to 
show that as they are different in their nature, 
construction and operation, from legislative acts, 
so likewise the power and authority of the as- 
sembly over them, after they are passed, is differ- 

It must occur to every person on the first re- 
flection, that the affairs and circumstances of a 
commonwealth require other business to be done 
besides that of making laws, and, consequently, 
that the different kinds of business cannot all 
be classed under one name, or be subject to one 
and the same rule of treatment. 

But to proceed — 

Ey agency transactions, or matters of negoti- 
ation, done by the assembly, are to be compre- 
hended all that kind of public business, which 
the assembly, as representatives of the republic, 
transact in its behalf, with a certain person or 
persons, or part or parts of the republic, for pur- 
poses mentioned in the act, and which the as- 
sembly confirm and ratify on the part of the 
commonwealth, by affixing to it the seal of the 

An act of this kind, differs from a law of the 



before-mentioned kind; because here are two 
parties and there but one, and the parties are 
bound to perform different and distinct parts: 
whereas, in the before-mentioned law, every 
man's part was the same. 

These acts, therefore, though numbered 
among the laws, are evidently distinct therefrom, 
and are not of the legislative kind. The former 
are laws for the government of the common- 
wealth ; these are transactions of business, such as, 
selling and conveying an estate belonging to the 
public, or buying one ; acts for borrowing money, 
and fixing with the lender the terms and modes 
of payment; acts of agreement and contract, 
with a certain person or persons, for certain pur- 
poses: and, in short, every act in which two 
parties, the state being one, are particularly men- 
tioned or described, and in which the form and 
nature of a bargain or contract is comprehended. 

These, if for custom and uniformity sake we 
call them by the name of laws, are not laws for 
the government of the commonwealth, but for the 
government of the contracting parties, as all 
deeds and contracts are; and are not, properly 
speaking, acts of the assembly, but joint acts, or 
acts of the assembly in behalf of the common- 


wealth on one part, and certain persons therein 
mentioned on the other part. 

Acts of this kind are distinguishable into two 
classes : 

First — Those wherein the matters inserted 
in the act have already been settled and adjusted 
between the state on one part, and the persons 
therein mentioned, on the other part. In this 
case the act is the completion and ratification of 
the contract or matters therein recited. It is in 
fact a deed signed, sealed and delivered. 

Second — Those acts wherein the matters have 
not been already agreed upon, and wherein the 
act only holds forth certain propositions and 
terms to be accepted of and acceded to. 

I shall give an instance of each of those acts. 
First, the state wants the loan of a sum of money ; 
certain persons make an offer to government to 
lend that sum, and send in their proposals: the 
government accept these proposals, and all the 
matters of the loan and the payment are agreed 
on; and an act is passed according to the usual 
form of passing acts, ratifying and confirming 
this agreement. This act is final. 

In the second case — the state, as in the pre- 
ceding one, wants a loan of money — the assembly 
passes an act holding forth the terms on which it 



will borrow and pay: this act has no force until 
the propositions and terms are accepted of and 
acceded to by some person or persons, and when 
those terms are accepted of and complied with, 
the act is binding on the state. 

But if at the meeting of the next assembly, 
or any other, the whole sum intended to be bor- 
rowed, should not be borrowed, that assembly 
may stop where they are, and discontinue pro- 
ceeding with the loan, or make new propositions 
and terms for the remainder; but so far as the 
subscriptions have been filled up, and the terms 
complied with, it is, as in the first case, a signed 
deed: and in the same manner are all acts, let 
the matters in them be what they may, wherein, 
as I have before mentioned, the state on one part, 
and certain individuals on the other part, are 
parties in the act. 

If the state should become a bankrupt, the 
creditors, as in all cases of bankruptcy, will be 
sufferers; they will have but a dividend for the 
whole: but this is not a dissolution of the con- 
tract, but an accommodation of it, arising from 
necessity. And so in all cases of this kind, if an 
inability takes place on either side, the contract 
cannot be performed, and some accommodation 


must be gone into, or the matter falls through of 

It may likewise, though it ought not to, hap- 
pen that in performing the matters, agreeably 
to the terms of the act, inconveniences, unfore- 
seen at the time of making the act, may arise to 
either or both parties: in this case, those incon- 
veniences may be removed by the mutual con- 
sent and agreement of the parties, and each finds 
its benefit in so doing: for in a republic it is the 
harmony of its parts that constitutes their sev- 
eral and mutual good. 

But the acts themselves are legally binding, 
as much as if they had been made between two 
private individuals. The greatness of one party 
cannot give it a superiority or advantage over 
the other. The state, or its representatives, the 
assembly, has no more power over an act of this 
kind, after it has passed, than if the state was a 
private person. It is the glory of a republic to 
have it so, because it secures the individual from 
becoming the prey of power, and prevents might 
from overcoming right. 

If any difference or dispute arise afterward 
between the state and the individuals with whom 
the agreement is made respecting the contract, or 
the meaning, or extent of any of the matters con- 



tained in the act, which may affect the property 
or interest of either, such difference or dispute 
must be judged of, and decided upon, by the 
laws of the land, in a court of justice and trial by 
jury; that is, by the laws of the land already in 
being at the time such act and contract was 

No law made afterwards can apply to the 
case, either directly, or by construction or impli- 
cation: for such a law would be a retrospective 
law, or a law made after the fact, and cannot 
even be produced in court as applying to the 
case before it for judgment. 

That this is justice, that it is the true prin- 
ciple of republican government, no man will be so 
hardy as to deny. If, therefore, a lawful con- 
tract or agreement, sealed and ratified, cannot be 
affected or altered by any act made afterwards, 
how much more inconsistent and irrational, des- 
potic and unjust would it be, to think of making 
an act with the professed intention of breaking 
up a contract already signed and sealed. 

That it is possible an assembly, in the heat 
and indiscretion of party, and meditating on 
power rather than on the principle by which all 
power in a republican government is governed, 
that of equal justice, may fall into the error of 


passing such an act, is admitted; — but it would 
be an actless act, an act that goes for nothing, 
an act which the courts of justice and the estab- 
lished laws of the land, could know nothing of. 

Because such an act would be an act of one 
party only, not only without, but against the con- 
sent of the other; and therefore, cannot be pro- 
duced to affect a contract made between the two. 
That the violation of a contract should be set 
up as a justification to the violator, would be the 
same thing as to say, that a man by breaking his 
promise is freed from the obligation of it, or that 
by transgressing the laws, he exempts himself 
from the punishment of them. 

Besides the constitutional and legal reasons 
why an assembly cannot, of its own act and au- 
thority, undo or make void a contract made be- 
tween the state (by a former assembly) and cer- 
tain individuals, may be added what may be call- 
ed the natural reasons, or those reasons which the 
plain rules of common sense point out to every 
man. Among which are the following: 

The principals, or real parties in the contract, 
are the state and the persons contracted with. 
The assembly is not a party, but an agent in be- 
half of the state, authorized and empowered to 
transact its affairs. 



Therefore, it is the state that is bound on one 
part and certain individuals on the other part, 
and the performance of the contract, according 
to the conditions of it, devolves on succeeding 
assemblies, not as principals, but as agents. 

Therefore, for the next or any other assembly 
to undertake to dissolve the state from its obli- 
gation is an assumption of power of a novel and 
extraordinary kind. It is the servant attempt- 
ing to free his master. 

The election of new assemblies following 
each other makes no difference in the nature of 
things. The state is still the same state. The 
public is still the same body. These do not an- 
nually expire, though the time of an assembly 
does. These are not new-created every year, nor 
can they be displaced from their original stand- 
ing; but are a perpetual, permanent body, al- 
ways in being and still the same. 

But if we adopt the vague, inconsistent idea 
that every new assembly has a full and complete 
authority over every act done by the state in a 
former assembly, and confound together laws, 
contracts, and every species of public business, it 
will lead us into a wilderness of endless confusion 
and insurmountable difficulties. It would be de- 
claring an assembly despotic, for the time being. 


Instead of a government of established prin- 
ciples administered by established rules, the au- 
thority of government, by being strained so high, 
would, by the same rule, be reduced proportion- 
ately as low, and would be no other than that of 
a committee of the state, acting with discretion- 
ary powers for one year. Every new election 
would be a new revolution, or it would suppose 
the public of the former year dead and a new 
public in its place. 

Having now endeavored to fix a precise idea 
to, and distinguish between legislative acts and 
acts of negotiation and agency, I shall proceed 
to apply this distinction to the case now in dis- 
pute, respecting the charter of the bank. 

The charter of the bank, or what is the same 
thing, the act for incorporating it, is to all in- 
tents and purposes an act of negotiation and 
contract, entered into, and confirmed between 
the State on one part, and certain persons men- 
tioned therein on the other part. The purpose 
for which the act was done on the part of the 
State is therein recited, viz.,, the support which 
the finances of the country would derive there- 
from. The incorporating clause is the condition 
or obligation on the part of the State; and the 
obligation on the part of the bank, is "that noth- 



ing contained in that act shall be construed to 
authorize the said corporation to exercise any 
powers in this State repugnant to the laws or 
constitution thereof." 

Here are all the marks and evidences of a 
contract. The parties — the purport — and the 
reciprocal obligations. 

That this is a contract, or a joint act, is evi- 
dent from its being in the power of either of 
the parties to have forbidden or prevented its be- 
ing done. The State could not force the stock- 
holders of the bank to be a corporation, and 
therefore, as their consent was necessary to the 
making the act, their dissent would have pre- 
vented its being made; so, on the other hand, as 
the bank could not force the State to incorporate 
them, the consent or dissent of the State would 
have had the same effect to do, or to prevent its 
being done; and as neither of the parties could 
make the act alone, for the same reason can 
neither of them dissolve it alone: but this is not 
the case with a law or act of legislation, and 
therefore, the difference proves it to be an act 
of a diff'erent kind. 

The bank may forfeit the charter by delin- 
quency, but the delinquency must be proved and 
established by a legal process in a court of justice 


and trial by jury; for the state, or the assembly, 
is not to be a judge in its own case, but must 
come to the laws of the land for judgment; for 
that which is law for the individual, is likewise law 
for the state. 

Before I enter further into this affair, I shall 
go back to the circumstances of the country, and 
the condition the government was in, for some 
time before, as well as at the time it entered 
into this engagement with the bank, and this 
act of incorporation was passed: for the govern- 
ment of this State, and I suppose the same of 
the rest, were then in want of two of the most 
essential matters which governments could be 
destitute of — money and credit. 

In looking back to those times, and bringing 
forward some of the circumstances attending 
them, I feel myself entering on unpleasant and 
disagreeable ground; because some of the mat- 
ters which the attacks on the bank now make it 
necessary to state, in order to bring the aifair 
fully before the public, will not add honor to 
those who have promoted that measure and car- 
ried it through the late House of Assembly; and 
for whom, though my own judgment and opin- 
ion on the case oblige me to differ from, I retain 

VIII-22 "-"^^ 


my esteem, and the social remembrance of times 

But, I trust, those gentlemen will do me the 
justice to recollect my exceeding earnestness with 
them, last spring, when the attack on the bank 
first broke out; for it clearly appeared to me 
one of those overheated measures, which, neither 
the country at large, nor their own constituents, 
would justify them in, when it came to be fully 
understood; for however high a party measure 
may be carried in an assembly, the people out of 
doors are all the while following their several 
occupations and employments, minding their 
farms and their business, and take their own 
time and leisure to judge of public measures; the 
consequence of which is, that they often judge 
in a cooler spirit than their representatives act 

It may be easily recollected that the present 
bank was preceded by, and rose out of a former 
one, called the Pennsylvania Bank which began a 
few months before ; the occasion of which I shall 
briefly state. 

In the spring of 1780, the Pennsylvania As- 
sembly was composed of many of the same mem- 
bers, and nearly all of the same connection, which 
composed the late House that began the attack 


on the bank. I served as Clerk of the Assembly 
of 1780, which station I resigned at the end of the 
year, and accompanied a much lamented friend, 
the late Colonel John Laurens, on an embassy to 

The spring of 1780 was marked with an ac- 
cumulation of misfortunes. The reliance placed 
on the defense of Charleston failed, and exceed- 
ingly lowered or depressed the spirits of the 
country. The measures of government, from 
the want of money, means and credit, dragged on 
like a heavy loaded carriage without wheels, and 
were nearly got to what a countryman would 
understand by a dead pull. 

The Assembly of that year met, by adjourn- 
ment, at an unusual time, the tenth of May, and 
what particularly added to the affliction, was, that 
so many of the members, instead of spiriting up 
their constituents to the most nervous exertions, 
came to the Assembly furnished with petitions to 
be exempt from paying taxes. How the public 
measures were to be carried on, the country de- 
fended, and the army recruited, clothed, fed, and 
paid, when the only resource, and that not half 
sufficient, that of taxes, should be relaxed to al- 
most nothing, was a matter too gloomy to look at. 

A language very different from that of pe- 



titions ought at this time to have been the lan- 
guage of everyone. A declaration to have stood 
forth with their lives and fortunes, and a repro- 
bation of every thought of partial indulgence 
would have sounded much better than petitions. 

While the Assembly was sitting, a letter from 
the commander-in-chief was received by the ex- 
ecutive council and transmitted to the House. 
The doors were shut, and it fell officially to me to 

In this letter the naked truth of things was 
unfolded. Among other informations, the gen- 
eral said, that notwithstanding his confidence in 
the attachment of the army to the cause of the 
country, the distress of it, from the want of every 
necessary which men could be destitute of, had 
arisen to such a pitch, that the appearances of 
mutiny and discontent were so strongly marked 
on the countenance of the army, that he dreaded 
the event of every hour. 

When the letter was read, I observed a de- 
spairing silence in the House. Nobody spoke 
for a considerable time. At length, a member, of 
whose fortitude to withstand misfortunes I had 
a high opinion, rose: 

"'If," said he, "the accoimt in that letter is 
a true state of things, and we are in the situation 


there represented, it appears to me in vain to 
contend the matter any longer. We may as well 
give up at first as at last." 

The gentleman who spoke next, was (to the 
best of my recollection) a member of Bucks 
County, who, in a cheerful note, endeavored to 
dissipate the gloom of the House: 

"Well, well," said he, "don't let the House 
despair. If things are not so well as we wish, we 
must endeavor to make them better." 

And on a motion for adjournment, the con- 
versation went no further. 

There was now no time to lose, and something 
absolutely necessary to be done, which was not 
within the immediate power of the House to do ; 
for what with the depreciation of the currency, 
and slow operation of taxes, and the petitions 
to be exempted therefrom, the treasury was 
moneyless, and the Government creditless. 

If the Assembly could not give the assistance 
which the necessity of the case immediateh?^ re- 
quired, it was very proper the matter should be 
known by those who either could or would en- 
deavor to do it. To conceal the information 
within the House, and not provide the relief which 
that information required, was making no use 
of the knowledge, and endangering the public 



cause. The only thing that now remained, and 
was capable of reaching the case, was private 
credit, and the voluntary aid of individuals; and 
under this impression, on my return from the 
House, I drew out the salary due to me as clerk, 
enclosed $500 to a gentleman in this city, in 
part of the whole, and wrote fully to him on the 
subject of our affairs. 

The gentleman to whom this letter was ad- 
dressed is Mr. Blair M'Clenaghan. I mentioned 
to him, that notwithstanding the current opinion 
that the enemy were beaten from before Charles- 
ton, there were too many reasons to believe the 
place was then taken and in the hands of the en- 
emy: the consequence of which would be, that 
a great part of the British force would return, 
and join at New York; that our own army re- 
quired to be augmented, ten thousand men, to 
be able to stand against the combined force of the 

I informed Mr. M'Clenaghan of General 
Washington's letter, the extreme distresses he 
was surrounded with, and the absolute occa- 
sion there was for the citizens to exert themselves 
at this time, which there was no doubt they would 
do, if the necessity was made known to them; 
for that the ability of Government was exhausted. 


I requested Mr. M'Clenaghan to propose a vol- 
untary subscription among his friends and 
added, that I had enclosed five hundred doUars 
as my mite thereto, and that I would increase it 
as far as the last ability would enable me to go.* 

The next day Mr. M'Clenaghan informed me 
that he had communicated the contents of the 
letter, at a meeting of gentlemen at the coffee- 
house, and that a subscription was immediately 
began; that Mr. Robert Morris and himself had 
subscribed £200 each, in hard money, and that 
the subscription was going on very successfully. 
This subscription was intended as a donation, and 
to be given in bounties to promote the recruiting 
service. It is dated June 8, 1780. The original 
subscription list is now in my possession — it 
amounts to £400 hard money, and .£101,360 Con- 

While this subscription was going forward, 
information of the loss of Charleston arrived,t 
and on a communication from several members 
of Congress to certain gentlemen of this city, 

* Mr. M'Clenaghan being now returned from Europe, has 
ray consent to show this letter to any gentleman who may be 
inclined to see it. 

fColonel Tennant, aide to General Lincoln, arrived the four- 
teenth of June, with despatches of the capitulation of Charles- 



of the increasing distresses and dangers then 
taking place, a meeting was held of the sub- 
scribers, and such other gentlemen who chose to 
attend, at the city tavern. This meeting was on 
the seventeenth of June, nine days after the sub- 
scriptions had begun. 

At this meeting it was resolved to open a 
security-subscription, to the amount of £300,000^ 
Pennsylvania currency, in real money; the sub- 
scribers to execute bonds to the amount of their 
subscriptions, and to form a bank thereon for 
supplying the army. This being resolved on 
and carried into execution, the plan of the first 
subscriptions was discontinued, and this extended 
one established in its stead. 

By means of this bank the army was supplied 
through the campaign, and being at the same 
time recruited, was enabled to maintain its 
ground; and on the appointment of Mr. Morris 
to be superintendent of the finances the spring 
following, he arranged the system of the pres- 
ent bank, styled the Bank of North America, 
and many subscribers of the former bank trans- 
ferred their subscriptions into this. 

Toward the establishment of this bank, Con- 
gress passed an ordinance of incorporation, De- 
cember twenty-first, which the government of 


Pennsylvania recognized by sundry matters ; and 
afterward, on an application of the president 
and directors of the bank, through the mediation 
of the executive council, the Assembly agreed to, 
and passed the State Act of incorporation 
April 1, 1782. 

Thus arose the bank — produced by the dis- 
tresses of the times and the enterprising spirit 
of patriotic individuals. Those individuals fur- 
nished and risked the money, and the aid which 
the Government contributed was that of incorpo- 
rating them. 

It would have been well if the State had 
made all its bargains and contracts with as much 
true policy as it made this: for a greater service 
for so small a consideration, that only of an act 
of incorporation, has not been obtained since the 
Government existed. 

Having now shown how the bank originated, 
I shall proceed with my remarks. 

The sudden restoration of public and private 
credit, which took place on the establishment of 
the bank, is an event as extraordinary in itself 
as any domestic occurrence during the progress 
of the Revolution. 

How far a spirit of envy might operate to 

produce the attack on the bank during the sitting 



of the late Assembly, is best known and felt by 
those who began or promoted the attack. The 
bank had rendered services which the Assembly 
of 1780 could not, and acquired an honor which 
many of its members might be unwilling to own, 
and wish to obscure. 

But surely every government, acting on the 
principles of patriotism and public good, would 
cherish an institution capable of rendering such 
advantages to the community. The establish- 
ment of the bank in one of the most trying vicis- 
situdes of the war, its zealous services in the pub- 
lic cause, its influence in restoring and support- 
ing credit, and the punctuality with which all 
its business has been transacted, are matters, that 
so far from meriting the treatment it met with 
from the late Assembly, are an honor to the 
State, and what the body of her citizens may be 
proud to own. 

But the attack on the bank, as a chartered 
institution, under the protection of its violators, 
however criminal it may be as an error of govern- 
ment, or impolitic as a measure of party, is not 
to be charged on the constituents of those who 
made the attack. It appears from every circum- 
stance that has come to light, to be a measure 

which that Assembly contrived of itself. The 


members did not come charged with the affair 
from their constituents. There was no idea of 
such a thing when they were elected or when 
they met. The hasty and precipitate manner in 
which it was hurried through the House, and the 
refusal of the House to hear the directors of the 
bank in its defense, prior to the publication of 
the repealing bill for public consideration, oper- 
ated to prevent their constituents comprehending 
the subject: therefore, whatever may be wrong 
in the proceedings lies not at the door of the pub- 
lic. The House took the affair on its own 
shoulders, and whatever blame there is, lies on 

The matter must have been prejudged and 
predetermined by a majority of the members out 
of the House, before it was brought into it. The 
whole business appears to have been fixed at 
once, and all reasoning or debate on the case 
rendered useless. 

Petitions from a very inconsiderable number 
of persons, suddenly procured, and so privately 
done, as to be a secret among the few that signed 
them, were presented to the House and read 
twice in one day, and referred to a committee 
of the House to inquire and report thereon. I 



here subjoin the petition* and the report, and 
shall exercise the right and privilege of a citizen 
in examining their merits, not for the purpose of 

*Minutes of the Assembly, March 21, 1785. Petitions from a 
considerable number of the inhabitants of Chester County were 
read, representing that the bank established at Philadelphia has 
fatal effects upon the community; that whilst men are enabled, 
by means of the bank, to receive near three times the rate of 
common interest, and at the same time receive their money at 
very short warning, whenever they have occasion for it, it will 
be impossible for the husbandman or mechanic to borrow on the 
former terms of legal interest and distant payments of the 
principal; that the best security will not enable the person to 
borrow; that experience clearly demonstrates the mischievous 
consequences of this institution to the fair trader; that imposters 
have been enabled to support themselves in a fictitious credit, 
by means of a temporary punctuality at the bank, until they 
have drawn in their honest neighbors to trust them with their 
property, or to pledge their credit as sureties, and have been 
finally involved in ruin and distress. 

That they have repeatedly seen the stopping of discounts at the 
bank operate on the trading part of the community, with a degree 
of violence scarcely inferior to that of a stagnation of the blood in 
the human body, hurrying the wretched merchant who hath debts 
to pay into the hands of griping usurers; that the directors of the 
bank may give such preference in trade, by advances of money, 
to their particular favorites, as to destroy that equality which 
ought to prevail in a commercial country; that paper money 
has often proved beneficial to the state, but the bank forbids 
it, and the people must acquiesce; therefore, and in order to 
restore public confidence and private security, they pray that a 
bill may be brought in and passed into a law for repealing the 
law for incorporating the bank. 

March 28. The report of the committee, read March 25, on 
the petitions from the counties of Chester and Berks, and the 
city of Philadelphia and its vicinity, praying the act of the 
Assembly, whereby the bank was established at Philadelphia, may 
be repealed, was read the second time as follows — viz. 

The committee to whom was referred the petitions concern- 
ing the bank established at Philadelphia, and who were in- 



opposition, but with a design of making an in- 
tricate affair more generally and better under- 

structed to inquire whether the said bank be compatible with 
the public safety, and that equality which ought ever to pre- 
vail between the individuals of a republic, beg leave to report, 
that it is the opinion of this committee that the said bank, as 
at present established, is in every view incompatible with the 
public safety — that in the present state of our trade, the said 
bank has a direct tendency to banish a great part of the specie 
from the country, so as to produce a scarcity of money, and 
to collect into the hands of the stockholders of the said bank, 
almost the whole of the money which remains amongst us. 

That the accumulation of enormous wealth in the hands of a 
society, who claim perpetual duration, will necessarily produce a 
degree of influence and power, which cannot be intrusted in the 
hands of any set of men whatsoever, without endangering the pub- 
lic safety. That the said bank, in its corporate capacity, is em- 
powered to hold estates to the amount of ten millions of dollars, 
and by the tenor of the present charter, is to exist forever, 
without being obliged to yield any emolument to the govern- 
ment, or to be at all dependent upon it. That the great profits 
of the bank which will daily increase as money grows scarcer, 
and which already far exceed the profits of European banks, 
have tempted foreigners to vest their money in this bank, and 
thus to draw from us large sums for interest. 

That foreigners will doubtless be more and more induced to 
become stockholders, until the time may arrive when this enor- 
mous engine of power may become subject to foreign influence; 
this country may be agitated with the politics of European 
courts, and the good people of America reduced once more into 
a state of subordination, and dependence upon some one or 
other of the European powers. That at best, if it were even con- 
fined to the hands of Americans, it would be totally destructive of 
that equality which ought to prevail in a republic. 

We have nothing in our free and equal government capable of 
balancing the influence which this bank must create — and we see 
nothing which in the course of a few years, can prevent the direct- 
ors of the bank from governing Pennsylvania. Already we have 
felt its influence indirectly interfering in the measures of the legis- 



So far as my private judgment is capable 
of comprehending the subject, it appears to me 
that the committee were unacquainted with, and 
have totally mistaken, the nature and business 
of a bank, as well as the matter committed to 
them, considered as a proceeding of government. 

They were instructed by the house to inquire 
whether the bank established at Philadelphia was 
compatible with the public safety. It is scarcely 
possible to suppose the instructions meant no 
more than that they were to inquire of one an- 
other. It is certain they made no inquiry at the 
bank, to inform themselves of the situation of 
its affairs, how they were conducted, what aids 
it had rendered the public cause, or whether any; 

lature. Already the House of Assembly, the representatives of 
the people, have been threatened, that the credit of our paper 
currency will be blasted by the bank; and if this growing evil 
continues, we fear the time is not very distant, when the bank 
will be able to dictate to the legislature, what laws to pass and 
what to forbear. 

Your committee therefore beg leave to further report the 
following resolution to be adopted by the House — viz. 

Resolved, that a committee be appointed to bring in a bUl to 
repeal the act of Assembly passed the first day of April, 1782, 
entitled, "An act to incorporate the subscribers to the Bank of 
North America": and also to repeal one other act of Assembly, 
passed the eighteenth of March, 1782, entitled, "An act for pre- 
venting and punishing the counterfeiting of the common seal, 
bank bills and bank notes of the president, directors and com- 
pany, of the Bank of North America, and for the other purposes 
therein mentioned," 



nor do the committee produce in their report a 
single fact or circumstance to show that they 
made any inquiry at all, or whether the rumors 
then circulated were true or false; but content 
themselves with modeling the insinuations of the 
petitions into a report and giving an opinion 

It would appear from the report, that the 
committee either conceived that the House had 
already determined how it would act, without re- 
gard to the case, and that they were only a com- 
mittee for form sake, and to give a color of in- 
quiry without making any, or that the case was 
referred to them, as law-questions are sometimes 
referred to law-officers for an opinion only. 

This method of doing public business serves 
exceedingly to mislead a country. When the 
constituents of an assembly hear that an inquiry 
into any matter is directed to be made, and a 
committee appointed for that purpose, they nat- 
urally conclude that the inquiry is made^ and that 
the future proceedings of the House are in con- 
sequence of the matters, facts, and information 
obtained by means of that inquiry. But here is 
a committee of inquiry making no inquiry at all, 
and giving an opinion on a case without inquir- 
ing into the merits of it. This proceeding of the 



committee would justify an opinion that it was 
not their wish to get, but to get over information, 
and lest the inquiry should not suit their wishes, 
omitted to make any. 

The subsequent conduct of the House, in re- 
solving not to hear the directors of the bank, on 
their application for that purpose, prior to the 
publication of the bill for the consideration of 
the people, strongly corroborates this opinion; 
for why should not the House hear them, unless it 
was apprehensive that the bank, by such a public 
opportunity, would produce proofs of its services 
and usefulness, that would not suit the temper 
and views of its oppressors? 

But if the House did not wish or choose to 
hear the defense of the bank, it was no reason 
that their constituents should not. The Constitu- 
tion of this State, in lieu of having two branches 
of legislature, has substituted, that, "to the end 
that laws before they are enacted may be more 
maturely considered, and the inconvenience of 
hasty determinations as much as possible pre- 
vented, all bills of a public nature shall be printed 
for the consideration of the people."* The peo- 
ple, therefore, according to the Constitution, 
stand in the place of another House; or, more 

♦Constitution, sect. 15th. 



properly speaking, are a house in their own right. 
But in this instance, the Assembly arrogates the 
whole power to itself, and places itself as a bar 
to stop the necessary information spreading 
among the people. 

The application of the bank to be heard be- 
fore the bill was published for public considera- 
tion had two objects. First, to the House — and 
secondly, through the House to the people, who 
are as another house. It was as a defense in the 
first instance, and as an appeal in the second. 
But the Assembly absorbs the right of the people 
to judge; because, by refusing to hear the de- 
fense, they barred the appeal. Were there no 
other cause which the constituents of that As- 
sembly had for censuring its conduct, than the 
exceeding unfairness, partiality, and arbitrari- 
ness with which its business was transacted, it 
would be cause sufficient. 

Let the constituents of assemblies differ, as 
they may, respecting certain peculiarities in the 
form of the constitution, they will all agree in 
supporting its principles, and in reprobating un- 
fair proceedings and despotic measures. Every 
constituent is a member of the republic, which is 
a station of more consequence to him than being 
a member of a party, and though they may dif- 

VIII-f8 331 


fer from each other in their choice of persons to 
transact the public business, it is of equal impor- 
tance to all parties that the business be done on 
right principles ; otherwise our laws and acts, in- 
stead of being founded in justice, will be found- 
ed in party, and be laws and acts of retalia- 
tion; and instead of being a republic of free citi- 
zens, we shall be alternately tyrants and slaves. 
But to return to the report. 

The report begins by stating that, "The com- 
mittee to whom was referred the petitions con- 
cerning the bank established at Philadelphia, and 
who were instructed to inquire whether the said 
bank be compatible with the public safety, and 
that equality which ought ever to prevail between 
the individuals of a repubhc, beg leave to report" 
(not that they have made any inquiry, but) "that 
it is the opinion of this conmiittee, that the said 
bank, as at present established, is, in every view, 
incompatible with the public safety." But why 
is it so? Here is an opinion unfounded and un- 
warranted. The conmiittee have begun their re- 
port at the wrong end; for an opinion, when 
given as a matter of judgment, is an action of 
the mind which follows a fact, but here it is put 
in the room of one. 

The report then says, "that in the present 


state of our trade, the said bank has a direct 
tendency to banish a great part of the specie from 
the country, and to collect into the hands of the 
stockholders of the bank, almost the whole of 
the money which remains among us." 

Here is another mere assertion, just like the 
former, without a single fact or circumstance to 
show why it is made, or whereon it is founded. 
Now the very reverse of what the committee as- 
serts is the natural consequence of a bank. Spe- 
cie may be called the stock in trade of the bank, it 
is therefore its interest to prevent it from wan- 
dering out of the country, and to keep a con- 
stant standing supply to be ready for all do- 
mestic occasions and demands. 

Were it true that the bank has a direct ten- 
dency to banish the specie from the country, 
there would soon be an end to the bank; and, 
therefore, the committee have so far mistaken the 
matter, as to put their fears in the place of their 
wishes: for if it is to happen as the committee 
states, let the bank alone and it will cease of it- 
self, and the repealing act need not have been 

It is the interest of the bank that people 
should keep their cash there, and all commercial 
countries find the exceeding great convenience of 



having a general depository for their cash. But 
so far from banishing it, there are no two classes 
of people in America who are so much interested 
in preserving hard money in the country as the 
bank and the merchant. Neither of them can 
carry on their business without it. Their oppo- 
sition to the paper money of the late Assembly 
was because it has a direct effect, as far as it is 
able, to banish the specie, and that without pro- 
viding any means for bringing more in. 

The committee must have been aware of this, 
and therefore chose to spread the first alarm, and, 
groundless as it was, to trust to the delusion. 

As the keeping the specie in the country is 
the interest of the bank, so it has the best oppor- 
tunities of preventing its being sent away, and 
the earliest knowledge of such a design. While 
the bank is the general depository of cash, no 
great sums can be obtained without getting it 
from thence, and as it is evidently prejudicial 
to its interest to advance money to be sent abroad, 
because in this case the money cannot by circula- 
tion return again, the bank, therefore, is inter- 
ested in preventing what the committee would 
have it suspected of promoting. 

It is to prevent the exportation of cash, and 
to retain it in the country, that the bank has, on 


several occasions, stopped the discounting notes 
till the danger had been passed.* The first part, 
therefore, of the assertion, that of banishing the 
specie, contains an apprehension as needless as it 

*The petitions say, "That they have frequently seen the stop- 
ping of discounts at the bank operate on the trading part of 
the community, with a degree of violence scarcely inferior to 
that of a stagnation of the blood in the human body, hurrying 
the wretched merchant who hath debts to pay into the hands of 
griping usurers." 

As the persons who say or signed this live somewhere in 
Chester County, they are not, from situation, certain of what 
they say. Those petitions have every appearance of being con- 
trived for the purpose of bringing the matter on. The petitions 
and the report have strong evidence in them of being both drawn 
by the same person: for the report is as clearly the echo of the 
petitions as ever the address of the British Parliament was the 
echo of the King's speech. 

Besides the reason I have already given for occasionally stop- 
ping discounting notes at the bank, there are other necessary rea- 
sons. It is for the purpose of settling accounts; short reckon- 
ings make long friends. The bank lends its money for short 
periods, and by that means assists a great many different people: 
and if it did not sometimes stop discounting as a means of 
settling with the persons it has already lent its money to, those 
persons would find a way to keep what they had borrowed 
longer than they ought, and prevent others being assisted. It 
is a fact, and some of the committee know it to be so, that 
sundry of those persons who then opposed the bank acted this 

The stopping the discounts do not, and cannot, operate to call 
In the loans sooner than the time for which they were lent, and 
therefore the charge is false that "it hurries men into the hands 
of griping usurers": and the truth is, that it operates to keep 
them from them. 

If petitions are to be contrived to cover the design of a house 
of assembly, and give a pretense for its conduct, or if a house 
is to be led by the nose by the idle tale of any fifty or sixty 
signers to a petition, it is time for the public to look a little 
closer into the conduct of its representatives. 



is groundless, and which, had the committee 
understood, or been the least informed of the 
nature of a bank, they could not have made. It 
is very probable that some of the opposers of the 
bank are those persons who have been disappoint- 
ed in their attempts to obtain specie for this pur- 
pose, and now disguise their opposition under 
other pretenses. 

I now come to the second part of the asser- 
tion, which is, that when the bank has banished 
a great part of the specie from the country, "it 
will collect into the hands of the stockholders 
almost the whole of the money which remains 
among us." But how, or by what means, the 
bank is to accomplish this wonderful feat, the 
conmiittee have not informed us. Whether peo- 
pie are to give their money to the bank for noth- 
ing, or whether the bank is to charm it from them 
as a rattlesnake charms a squirrel from a tree, 
the committee have left us as much in the dark 
about as they were themselves. 

Is it possible the committee should know so 
very little of the matter, as not to know that no 
part of the money which at any time may be in 
the bank belongs to the stockholders? Not even 
the original capital which they put in is any 
part of it their own, imtil every person who has 


a demand upon the bank is paid, and if there is 
not a sufficiency for this purpose, on the balance 
of loss and gain, the original money of the stock- 
holders must make up the deficiency. 

The money, which at any time may be in the 
bank, is the property of every man who holds a 
bank note, or deposits cash there, or who has 
a just demand upon it from the city of Phila- 
delphia up to Fort Pitt, or to any part of the 
United States ; and he can draw the money from 
it when he pleases. Its being in the bank, does 
not in the least make it the property of the stock- 
holders, any more than the money in the state 
treasury is the property of the state treasurer. 
They are only stewards over it for those who 
please to put it, or let it remain there : and, there- 
fore, this second part of the assertion is somewhat 

The next paragraph in the report is, "that 
the accumulation of enormous wealth in the hands 
of a society who claim perpetual duration, will 
necessarily produce a degree of influence and 
power which cannot be intrusted in the hands of 
any set of men whatsoever" (the committee I 
presume excepted) * 'without endangering pub- 
lic safety." There is an air of solemn fear in 
this paragraph which is something like introduc- 



ing a ghost in a play to keep people from laugh- 
ing at the players. 

I have already shown that whatever wealth 
there may be, at any time, in the bank, is the 
property of those who have demands upon the 
bank, and not the property of the stockholders. 
As a society they hold no property, and most 
probably never will, unless it should be a house 
to transact their business in, instead of hiring one. 
Every half year the bank settles its accounts, and 
each individual stockholder takes his dividend of 
gain or loss to himself, and the bank begins the 
next half year in the same manner it began the 
first, and so on. This being the nature of a bank, 
there can be no accumulation of wealth among 
them as a society. 

For what purpose the word ''society** is intro- 
duced into the report I do not know, unless it 
be to make a false impression upon people's 
minds. It has no connection with the subject, 
for the bank is not a society, but a company, and 
denominated so in the charter. There are sev- 
eral religious societies incorporated in this State, 
which hold property as the right of those so- 
cieties, and to which no person can belong that 
is not of the same religious profession. But this 
is not the case with the bank. The bank is a com- 


pany for the promotion and convenience of com- 
merce, which is a matter in which all the State 
is interested, and holds no property in the man- 
ner which those societies do. 

But there is a direct contradiction in this para- 
graph to that which goes before it. The com- 
mittee, there, accuses the bank of banishing the 
specie, and here, of accumulating enormous sums 
of it. So here are two enormous sums of specie ; 
one enormous sum going out, and another enor- 
mous sum remaining. To reconcile this contra- 
diction, the committee should have added to their 
report, that they suspected the hank had found 
out the philosopher's stone, and kept it a secret. 

The next paragraph is, "that the said bank, 
in its corporate capacity, is empowered to hold 
estates to the amount of ten millions of dollars, 
and by the tenor of the present charter is to 
exist for ever, without being obliged to yield 
any emolument to the government, or be in the 
least dependent on it." 

The committee have gone so vehemently into 
this business, and so completely shown their want 
of knowledge in every point of it, as to make, 
in the first part of this paragraph, a fear of what, 
the greater fear is, will never happen. Had the 
committee known anything of banking, they 



must have known, that the objection against 
banks has been (not that they held great estates 
but) that they held none; that they had no real, 
fixed, and visible property, and that it is the 
maxim and practise of banks not to hold any. 

The Honorable Chancellor Livingston, late 
secretary for foreign affairs, did me the honor 
of showing, and discoursing with me on, a plan 
of a bank he had drawn up for the state of New 
York. In this plan it was made a condition or 
obligation, that whatever the capital of the bank 
amounted to in specie, there should be added 
twice as much in real estates. But the mercantile 
interest rejected the proposition. 

It was a very good piece of policy in the As- 
sembly which passed the charter act, to add the 
clause to empower the bank to purchase and hold 
real estates. It was as an inducement to the 
bank to do it, because such estates being held 
as the property of the bank would be so many 
mortgages to the public in addition to the money 
capital of the bank. 

But the doubt is that the bank will not be 
induced to accept the opportunity. The bank 
has existed five years, and has not purchased a 
shilling of real property: and as such property 
or estates cannot be purchased by the bank but 


with the interest money which the stock produces, 
and as that is divided every half year among the 
stockholders, and each stockholder chooses to 
have the management of his own dividend, and 
if he lays it out in purchasing an estate to have 
that estate his own private property, and under 
his own immediate management, there is no ex- 
pectation, so far from being any fear, that the 
clause will be accepted. 

Where knowledge is a duty, ignorance is a 
crime; and the cormnittee are criminal in not 
understanding this subject better. Had this 
clause not been in the charter, the committee 
might have reported the want of it as a defect, 
in not empowering the bank to hold estates as a 
real security to its creditors : but as the complaint 
now stands, the accusation of it is, that the char- 
ter empowers the bank to give real security to its 
creditors. A complaint never made, heard of, or 
thought of before. 

The second article in this paragraph is, "that 
the bank, according to the tenor of the present 
charter, is to exist forever." Here I agree with 
the committee, and am glad to find that among 
such a list of errors and contradictions there is 
one idea which is not wrong, although the com- 
mittee have made a wrong use of it. 



As we are not to live forever ourselves, and 
other generations are to follow us, we have 
neither the power nor the right to govern them, 
or to say how they shall govern themselves. It 
is the summit of human vanity, and shows a cov- 
etousness of power beyond the grave, to be dic- 
tating to the world to come. It is sufficient that 
we do that which is right in our own day, and 
leave them with the advantage of good examples. 

As the generations of the world are every day 
both commencing and expiring, therefore, when 
any public act, of this sort, is done, it naturally 
supposes the age of that generation to be then 
beginning, and the time contained between com- 
ing of age, and the natural end of life, is the 
extent of time it has a right to go to, which 
may be about thirty years ; for though many may 
die before, others will live beyond ; and the mean 
time is equally fair for all generations. 

If it was made an article in the Constitution, 
that all laws and acts should cease of themselves 
in thirty years, and have no legal force beyond 
that time, it would prevent their becoming too 
numerous and voluminous, and serve to keep 
them within view in a compact compass. Such 
as were proper to be continued, would be enacted 
again, and those which were not, would go into 


oblivion. There Is the same propriety that a 
nation should fix a time for a full settlement of 
its affairs, and begin again from a new date, as 
that an individual should; and to keep within the 
distance of thirty years would be a convenient 

The British, from the want of some general 
regulation of this kind, have a great number of 
obsolete laws ; which, though out of use and for- 
gotten, are not out of force, and are occasionally 
brought up for particular purposes, and inno- 
cent, unwary persons trapanned thereby. 

To extend this idea still further — it would 
probably be a considerable improvement in the 
political sj'-stem of nations, to make all treaties 
of peace for a limited time. It is the nature of 
the mind to feel uneasy under the Idea of a con- 
dition perpetually existing over it, and to ex- 
cite in itself apprehensions that would not take 
place were it not from that cause. 

Were treaties of peace made for, and renew- 
able every seven or ten years, the natural effect 
would be, to make peace continue longer than it 
does under the custom of making peace forever. 
If the parties felt, or apprehended, any incon- 
veniences under the terms already made, they 
would look forward to the time when they should 



be eventually relieved therefrom, and might re- 
new the treaty on improved conditions. 

This opportunity periodically occurring, and 
the recollection of it always existing, would serve 
as a chimney to the political fabric, to carry off 
the smoke and fume of national fire. It would 
naturally abate and honorably take off the edge 
and occasion for fighting: and however the par- 
ties might determine to do it, when the time of the 
treaty should expire, it would then seem like 
fighting in cool blood : the fighting temper would 
be dissipated before the fighting time arrived, 
and negotiation supply its place. To know how 
probable this may be, a man need do no more 
than observe the progress of his own mind on 
any private circumstance similar in its nature 
to a public one. But to return to my subject. 

To give limitation is to give duration: and 
though it is not a justifying reason, that because 
an act or contract is not to last forever, that it 
shall be broken or violated to-day, yet, where no 
time is mentioned, the omission affords an oppor- 
tunity for the abuse. When we violate a con- 
tract on this pretense, we assume a right that be- 
longs to the next generation; for though they, 
as a following generation, have the right of al- 
tering or setting it aside, as not being concerned 


in the making it, or not being done in their day, 
we, who made it, have not that right ; and, there- 
fore, the committee, in this part of their report, 
have made a wrong use of a right principle ; and 
as this clause in the charter might have been al- 
tered by the consent of the parties, it cannot be 
produced to justify the violation. And were it 
not altered there would be no inconvenience from 

The term "forever" is an absurdity that 
would have no effect. The next age will think 
for itself, by the same rule of right that we have 
done, and not admit any assumed authority of 
ours to encroach upon the system of their day. 
Our forever ends, where their forever begins. 

The third article in this paragraph is, that 
the bank holds its charter "without being obliged 
to yield any emolument to the Government.'* 

Ingratitude has a short memory. It was on 
the failure of the Government to support the 
public cause, that the bank originated. It step- 
ped in as a support, when some of the persons 
then in the Government, and who now oppose the 
bank, were apparently on the point of abandon- 
ing the cause, not from disaffection, but from de- 
spair. While the expenses of the war were car- 
ried on by emissions of Continental money, any 



set of men, in government, might carry it on. 
The means being provided to their hands, re- 
quired no great exertions of fortitude or wis- 
dom ; but when this means failed, they would have 
failed with it, had not a public spirit awakened 
itself with energy out-of-doors. It was easy 
times to the governments while Continental mon- 
ey lasted. The dream of wealth supplied the real- 
ity of it; but when the dream vanished, the gov- 
ernment did not awake. 

But what right has the government to ex- 
pect any emolument from the bank? Does the 
committee mean to set up acts and charters for 
sale, or what do they mean? Because it is the 
practise of the British Ministry to grind a toll 
out of every public institution they can get a 
power over, is the same practise to be followed 

The war being now ended, and the bank hav- 
ing rendered the service expected, or rather hoped 
for, from it, the principal public use of it, at this 
time, is for the promotion and extension of com- 
merce. The whole community derives benefit 
from the operation of the bank. It facilitates the 
commerce of the country. It quickens the means 
of purchasing and paying for country produce, 
and hastens on the exportation of it. The emolu- 



ment, therefore, being to the community, it is the 
office and duty of government to give protection 
to the bank. 

Among many of the principal conveniences 
arising from the bank, one of them is, that it 
gives a kind of life to, what would otherwise be, 
dead money. Every merchant and person in 
trade, has always in his hands some quantity of 
cash, which constantly remains with him ; that is, 
he is never entirely without : this remnant money, 
as it may be called, is of no use to him till more 
is collected to it. He can neither buy produce 
nor merchandise with it, and this being the case 
with every person in trade, there will be (though 
not all at the same time) as many of those sums 
lying uselessly by, and scattered throughout the 
city, as there are persons in trade, besides many 
that are not in trade. 

I should not suppose the estimate overrated, 
in conjecturing, that half the money in the city, 
at any one time, lies in this manner. By collect- 
ing those scattered sums together, which is done 
by means of the bank, they become capable of 
being used, and the quantity of circulating cash 
is doubled, and by the depositors alternately lend- 
ing them to each other, the commercial system 
is invigorated: and as it is the interest of the 

VIII-44 " * 


bank to preserve this money in the country for 
domestic uses only, and as it has the best op- 
portunity of doing so, the bank serves as a sen- 
tinel over the specie. 

If a farmer, or a miller, comes to the city with 
produce, there are but few merchants that can in- 
dividually purchase it with ready money of their 
own; and those few would command nearly the 
whole market for country produce ; but, by means 
of the bank, this monopoly is prevented, and the 
chance of the market enlarged. 

It is very extraordinary that the late Assem- 
bly should promote monopolizing; yet such would 
be the effect of suppressing the bank; and it is 
much to the honor of those merchants, who are 
capable by their fortunes of becoming monopo- 
lizers, that they support the bank. In this case, 
honor operates over interest. They were the 
persons who first set up the bank, and their hon- 
or is now engaged to support what it is their in- 
terest to put down. 

If merchants, by this means, or farmers, by 
similar means, among themselves, can mutually 
aid and support each other, what has the govern- 
ment to do with it? What right has it to expect 
emolument from associated industry, more than 
from individual industry? It would be a strange 


sort of government, that should make it illegal 
for people to assist each other, or pay a tribute 
for doing so. 

But the truth is, that the government has al- 
ready derived emoluments, and very extraordi- 
nary ones. It has akeady received its full share, 
by the services of the bank during the war; and 
it is every day receiving benefits, because what- 
ever promotes and facilitates commerce, serves 
likewise to promote and facilitate the revenue. 

The last article in this paragraph is, "that the 
bank is not the least dependent on the govern- 

Have the committee so soon forgotten the 
principles of republican government and Con- 
stitution, or are they so little acquainted with 
them, as not to know, that this article in their 
report partakes of the nature of treason? Do 
they not know, that freedom is destroyed by de- 
pendence, and the safety of the state endangered 
thereby? Do they not see, that to hold any part 
of the citizens of the state, as yearly pensioners 
on the favor of an assembly, is striking at the 
root of free elections ? 

If other parts of their report discover a want 
of knowledge on the subject of banks, this shows 
a want of principle in the science of government. 



Only let us suppose this dangerous idea car- 
ried into practise, and then see what it leads to. 
If corporate bodies are, after their incorpora- 
tion to be annually dependent on an assembly for 
the continuance of their charter, the citizens which 
compose those corporations, are not free. The 
Government holds an authority and influence 
over them, in a manner different from what it 
does over other citizens, and by this means de- 
stroys that equality of freedom, which is the bul- 
wark of the republic and the Constitution. 

By this scheme of government any party, 
which happens to be uppermost in a state, will 
command all the corporations in it, and may 
create more for the purpose of extending that in- 
fluence. The dependent borough towns in Eng- 
land are the rotten parts of their government and 
this idea of the committee has a very near relation 
to it. 

"If you do not do so and so," expressing what 
was meant, "take care of your charter," was a 
threat thrown out against the bank. But as I do 
not wish to enlarge on a disagreeable circumstance 
and hope that what is already said is sufficient 
to show the anti-constitutional conduct and prin- 
ciples of the committee, I shall pass on to the next 
paragraph in the report. Which is — 


"That the great profits of the bank, which 
will daily increase as money grows scarcer, and 
which already far exceed the profits of Euro- 
pean banks, have tempted foreigners to vest their 
money in this bank, and thus to draw from us 
large sums for interest." 

Had the committee understood the subject, 
some dependence might be put on their opinion 
which now cannot. Whether money will grow 
scarcer, and whether the profits of the bank will 
increase, are more than the committee know, or 
are judges sufficient to guess at. The committee 
are not so capable of taking care of commerce, as 
commerce is capable of taking care of itself. 

The farmer understands farming, and the 
merchant understands commerce; and as riches 
are equally the object of both, there is no occa- 
sion that either should fear that the other will 
seek to be poor. The more money the merchant 
has, so much the better for the farmer who has 
produce to sell; and the richer the farmer is, so 
much the better for the merchant, when he comes 
to his store. 

As to the profits of the bank, the stockholders 
must take their chance for it. It may some years 
be more and others less, and upon the whole may 
not be so productive as many other ways that 



money may be employed. It is the convenience 
which the stockholders, as commercial men, de- 
rive from the establishment of the bank, and not 
the mere interest they receive, that is the induce- 
ment to them. It is the ready opportunity of bor- 
rowing alternately of each other that forms the 
principal object: and as they pay as well as re- 
ceive a great part of the interest among them- 
selves, it is nearly the same thing, both cases con- 
sidered at once, whether it is more or less. 

The stockholders are occasionally depositors 
and sometimes borrowers of the bank. They 
pay interest for what they borrow, and receive 
none for what they deposit ; and were a stockhold- 
er to keep a nice account of the interest he pays 
for the one and loses on the other, he would find, 
at the year's end, that ten per cent on his stock 
would probably not be more than common inter- 
est on the whole, if so much. 

As to the committee complaining "that for- 
eigners by vesting their money in the bank will 
draw large sums from us for interest," it is like 
a miller complaining, in a dry season, that so 
much water runs into his dam some of it runs 

Could those foreigners draw this interest 
without putting in any capital, the complaint 


would be well founded ; but as they must first put 
money in before they can draw any out, as they 
must draw many years before they can draw even 
the numerical sum they put in at first, the effect 
for at least twenty years to come, will be directly 
contrary to what the committee states; because 
we draw capital from them and they only interest 
from us, and as we shall have the use of the money 
all the while it remains with us, the advantage 
will always be in our favor. In framing this 
part of the report, the committee must have for- 
gotten which side of the Atlantic they were on, 
for the case would be as they state it if we put 
money into their bank instead of their putting it 
into ours. 

I have now gone through, line by line, every 
objection against the bank, contained in the first 
half of the report; what follows may be called, 
The lamentations of the committee, and a lament- 
able, pusillanimous, degrading thing it is. 

It is a public aiFront, a reflection upon the 
sense and spirit of the whole country. I shall 
give the remainder together, as it stands in the 
report, and then my remarks. The lamentations 

That foreigners will doubtless be more and more 
induced to become stock holders, until the time may 



arrive when this enormous engine of power may become 
subject to foreign influence, this country may be agi- 
tated by the politics of European courts, and the good 
people of America reduced once more into a state of 
subordination and dependence upon some one or other 
of the European powers. That at best, if it were even 
confined to the hands of Americans, it would be totally 
destructive of that equality which ought to prevail in 
a republic. We have nothing in our free and equal 
government capable of balancing the influence which 
this bank must create; and we see nothing which in the 
course of a few years can prevent the directors of the 
bank from governing Pennsylvania. Already we have 
felt its influence indirectly interfering in the measures 
of the Legislature. Already the House of Assembly, 
the representatives of the people, have been threatened, 
that the credit of our paper currency will be blasted by 
the bank; and if this growing evil continues, we fear 
the time is not very distant when the bank will be able 
to dictate to the Legislature, what laws to pass and what 
to forbear. 

When the sky falls we shall all be killed. 
There is something so ridiculously grave, so wide 
of probability, and so wild, confused and incon- 
sistent in the whole composition of this long para- 
graph, that I am at a loss how to begin upon it. 

It is like a drowning man crying fire! fire! 

This part of the report is made up of two 
dreadful predictions. The first is, that if for- 
eigners purchase bank stock, we shall be all ruin- 
ed; — the second is, that if the Americans keep 
the bank to themselves, we shall be also ruined. 


A committee of fortune-tellers Is a novelty in 
government, and the gentlemen, by giving this 
specimen of their art, have ingeniously saved 
their honor on one point, which is, that though 
the people may say they are not bankers, nobody 
can say they are not conjurers. There is, how- 
ever, one consolation left, which is, that the com- 
mittee do not know exactly how long it may be; 
so there is some hope that we may all be in heaven 
when this dreadful calamity happens upon earth. 

But to be serious, if any seriousness is neces- 
sary on so laughable a subject. If the State 
should think there is anything improper in for- 
eigners purchasing bank stock, or any other kind 
of stock or funded property (for I see no reason 
why bank stock should be particularly pointed at) 
the Legislature have authority to prohibit it. It 
is a mere political opinion that has nothing to do 
with the charter, or the charter with that; and 
therefore the first dreadful prediction vanishes. 

It has always been a maxim in pohtics, found- 
ed on, and drawn from, natural causes and con- 
sequences, that the more foreign countries which 
any nation can interest in the prosperity of its 
own, so much the better. Where the treasure is, 
there will the heart be also; and therefore when 

foreigners vest their money with us, they natur- 



ally invest their good wishes with it; and it is 
we that obtain an influence over them, not they 
over us. But the committee set out so very 
wrong at first, that the further they traveled, the 
more they were out of their way; and now they 
have got to the end of their report, they are at the 
utmost distance from their business. 

As to the second dreadful part, that of the 
bank overturning the government, perhaps the 
committee meant that at the next general elec- 
tion themselves might be turned out of it, which 
has partly been the case; not by the influence of 
the bank, for it had none, not even enough to ob- 
tain the permission of a hearing from govern- 
ment, but by the influence of reason and the choice 
of the people, who most probably resent the un- 
due and unconstitutional influence which that 
House and committee were assuming over the 
privileges of citizenship. 

The committee might have been so modest as 
to have confined themselves to the bank, and not 
thrown a general odium on the whole country. 
Before the events can happen which the commit- 
tee predict, the electors of Pennsylvania must 
become dupes, dunces, and cowards, and, there- 
fore, when the committee predict the dominion of 
the bank they predict the disgrace of the people. 


The committee having finished their report, 
proceed to give their advice, which is, 

That a committee be appointed to bring in a bill 
to repeal the act of Assembly passed the first day of 
April, 1782, entitled, "An act to incorporate the sub- 
scribers to the Bank of North America," and also to re- 
peal one other act of the Assembly passed the eighteenth 
of March, 1782, entitled, "An act for preventing and 
punishing the counterfeiting of the common seal, bank- 
bills and bank notes of the president, directors and com- 
pany of the Bank of North America, and for other 
purposes therein mentioned." 

There is something in this sequel to the report 
that is perplexed and obscure. 

Here are two acts to be repealed. One is, 
the incorporating act. The other, the act for pre- 
venting and punishing the counterfeiting of the 
common seal, bank bills, and bank notes of the 
president, directors and company of the Bank of 
North America. 

It would appear from the committee's man- 
ner of arranging them (were it not for the dif- 
ference of their dates) that the act for punishing 
the counterfeiting the common seal, etc., of the 
bank followed the act of incorporation, and that 
the common seal there referred to is a common 
seal which the bank held in consequence of the 
aforesaid incorporating act. But the case is quite 



otherwise. The act for punishing the counterfeit- 
ing the common seal, etc. of the bank, was passed 
prior to the incorporating act, and refers to the 
common seal which the bank held in consequence 
of the charter of Congress, and the style which the 
act expresses, of president, directors and com- 
pany of the Bank of North America, is the cor- 
porate style which the bank derives under the 
Congress charter. 

The punishing act, therefore, hath two dis- 
tinct legal points. The one is, an authoritative 
public recognition of the charter of Congress. 
The second is, the punishment it inflicts on coun- 

The Legislature may repeal the punishing 
part but it cannot undo the recognition, because 
no repealing act can say that the State has not 
recognized. The recognition is a mere matter of 
fact, and no law or act can undo a fact, or put it, 
if I may so express it, in the condition it was be- 
fore it existed. The repealing act therefore does 
not reach the full point the committee had in 
view; for even admitting it to be a repeal of the 
state charter, it still leaves another charter recog- 
nized in its stead. 

The charter of Congress, standing merely 

on itself, would have a doubtful authority, 


but recognition of it by the state gives it legal 
ability. The repealing act, it is true sets aside 
the punishment, but does not bar the operation of 
the charter of Congress as a charter recognized 
by the state, and therefore the committee did their 
business but by halves. 

I have now gone entirely through the report 
of the committee, and a more irrational, incon- 
sistent, contradictory report will scarcely be 
found on the journals of any legislature of 

How the repealing act is to be applied, or in 
what manner it is to operate, is a matter yet to 
be determined. For admitting a question of law 
to arise, whether the charter, which that act at- 
tempts to repeal, is a law of the land in the man- 
ner which laws of universal operation are, or of 
the nature of a contract made between the public 
and the bank (as I have already explained in this 
work) , the repealing act does not and cannot de- 
cide the question, because it is the repealing act 
that makes the question, and its own fate is in- 
volved in the decision. It is a question of law and 
not a question of legislation, and must be decided 
on in a court of justice and not by a house of 

But the repealing act, by being passed prior 



to the decision of this point, assumes the power of 
deciding it, and the assembly in so doing erects 
itself unconstitutionally into a tribunal of judica- 
ture, and absorbs the authority and right of the 
courts of justice into itself. 

Therefore the operation of the repealing act, 
in its very outset, requires injustice to be done. 
For it is impossible on the principles of a re- 
publican government and the Constitution, to 
pass an act to forbid any of the citizens the right 
of appealing to the courts of justice on any mat- 
ter in which his interest or property is aifected; 
but the first operation of this act goes to shut 
up the courts of justice and holds them subserv- 
ient to the Assembly. It either commands or in- 
fluences them not to hear the case, or to give 
judgment on it on the mere will of one party 

I wish the citizens to awaken themselves on 
this subject. Not because the bank is concerned, 
but because their own constitutional rights and 
privileges are involved in the event. It is a ques- 
tion of exceeding great magnitude ; for if an as- 
sembly is to have this power, the laws of the land 
and the courts of justice are but of little use. 

Having now finished with the report, I pro- 


ceed to the third and last subject — that of paper 

I remember a German farmer expressing as 
much in a few words as the whole subject re- 
quires; ^'money is money, and paper is paper" 

All the invention of man cannot make them 
otherwise. The alchemist may cease his labors, 
and the hunter after the philosopher's stone go to 
rest, if paper can be metamorphosed into gold 
and silver, or made to answer the same purpose in 
all cases. 

Gold and silver are the emissions of nature: 
paper is the emission of art. The value of gold 
and silver is ascertained by the quantity which 
nature has made in the earth. We cannot make 
that quantity more or less than it is, and therefore 
the value being dependent upon the quantity, de- 
pends not on man. Man has no share in making 
gold or silver; all that his labors and ingenuity 
can accomplish is, to collect it from the mine, re- 
fine it for use and give it an impression, or stamp 
it into coin. 

Its being stamped into coin adds considerably 
to its convenience but nothing to its value. It 
has then no more value than it had before. Its 
value is not in the impression but in itself. Take 
away the impression and still the same value re- 



mains. Alter it as you will, or expose it to any 
misfortune that can happen, still the value is not 
diminished. It has a capacity to resist the ac- 
cidents that destroy other things. It has, there- 
fore, all the requisite quahties that money can 
have, and is a fit material to make money of; and 
nothing which has not all those properties, can 
be fit for the purpose of money. 

Paper, considered as a material whereof to 
make money, has none of the requisite qualities 
in it. It is too plentiful, and too easily come at. 
It can be had anywhere, and for a trifle. 

There are two ways in which I shall consider 

The only proper use for paper, in the room 
of money, is to write promissory notes and ob- 
ligations of payment in specie upon. A piece of 
paper, thus written and signed, is worth the sum 
it is given for, if the person who gives it is able 
to pay it ; because in this case, the law will oblige 
him. But if he is worth nothing, the paper note 
is worth nothing. The value, therefore, of such 
a note, is not in the note itself, for that is but 
paper and promise, but in the man who is obliged 
to redeem it with gold or silver. 

Paper, circulating in tkis manner, and for 
this purpose, continually points to the place and 


persoji where, and of whom, the money is to be 
had, and at last finds its home; and, as it were, 
unlocks its master's chest and pays the bearer. 

But when an assembly undertake to issue pa- 
per as money, the whole system of safety and cer- 
tainty is overturned, and property set afloat. Pa- 
per notes given and taken between individuals as 
a promise of payment is one thing, but paper is- 
sued by an assembly as money is another thing. It 
is like putting an apparition in the place of a 
man; it vanishes with looking at it, and nothing 
remains but the air. 

Money, when considered as the fruit of many 
years industry, as the reward of labor, sweat and 
toil, as the widow's dowry and children's portion, 
and as the means of procuring the necessaries and 
alleviating the afflictions of life, and making old 
age a scene of rest, has something in it sacred that 
is not to be sported with, or trusted to the airy 
bubble of paper currency. 

By what power or authority an assembly un- 
dertakes to make paper money, is difficult to say. 
It derives none from the Constitution, for that is 
silent on the subject. It is one of those things 
which the people have not delegated, and which, 
were they at any time assembled together, they 
would not delegate. It is, therefore, an assump- 

VIII-25 363 


tion of power which an assembly is not warranted 
in, and which may, one day or other, be the means 
of bringing some of them to punishment. 

I shall enmnerate some of the evils of paper 
money and conclude with offering means for pre- 
venting them. 

One of the evils of paper money is, that it 
turns the whole country into stock jobbers. The 
precariousness of its value and the uncertainty 
of its fate continually operate, night and day, to 
produce this destructive effect. Having no real 
value in itself it depends for support upon acci- 
dent, caprice and party, and as it is the interest 
of some to depreciate and of others to raise its val- 
ue, there is a continual invention going on that de- 
stroys the morals of the country. 

It was horrid to see, and hurtful to recollect, 
how loose the principles of justice were left, by 
means of the paper emissions during the war. 
The experience then had, should be a warning to 
any assembly how they venture to open such a 
dangerous door again. 

As to the romantic, if not hypocritical, tale 
that a virtuous people need no gold and silver, 
and that paper will do as well, it requires no other 
contradiction than the experience we have seen. 
Though some well meaning people may be in- 


clined to view it in this light, it is certain that the 
sharper always talks this language. 

There are a set of men who go about making 
purchases upon credit, and buying estates they 
have not wherewithal to pay for ; and having done 
this, their next step is to fill the newspapers with 
paragraphs of the scarcity of money and the ne- 
cessity of a paper emission, then to have a legal 
tender under the pretense of supporting its credit, 
and when out, to depreciate it as fast as they 
can, get a deal of it for a little price, and cheat 
their creditors; and this is the concise history of 
paper money schemes. 

But why, since the universal custom of the 
world has established money as the most conven- 
ient medium of traffic and commerce, should pa- 
per be set up in preference to gold and silver? 
The productions of nature are surely as innocent 
as those of art; and in the case of money, are 
abundantly, if not infinitely, more so. The love 
of gold and silver may produce covetousness, but 
covetousness, when not connected with dishonesty, 
is not properly a vice. It is frugahty run to an 

But the evils of paper money have no end. Its 
uncertain and fluctuating value is continually 
awakening or creating new schemes of deceit. 



Every principle of justice is put to the rack, and 
the bond of society dissolved: the suppression, 
therefore, of paper money might very properly 
have been put into the act for preventing vice 
and immorality. 

The pretense for paper money has been, that 
there was not a sufficiency of gold and silver. 
This, so far from being a reason for paper emis- 
sions, is a reason against them. 

As gold and silver are not the productions of 
North America, they are, therefore, articles of 
importation; and if we set up a paper manufac- 
tory of money it amounts, as far as it is able, to 
prevent the importation of hard money, or to 
send it out again as fast as it comes in; and by 
following this practise we shall continually ban- 
ish the specie, till we have none left, and be con- 
tinually complaining of the grievance instead of 
remedying the cause. 

Considering gold and silver as articles of im- 
portation, there will in time, unless we prevent it 
by paper emissions, be as much in the country as 
the occasions of it require, for the same reasons 
there are as much of other imported articles. But 
as every yard of cloth manufactured in the coun- 
try occasions a yard the less to be imported, so it 
is by money, with this difference, that in the one 


case we manufacture the thing itself and in the 
other we do not. We have cloth for cloth, but we 
have only paper dollars for silver ones. 

As to the assumed authority of any assembly 
in making paper money, or paper of any kind, a 
legal tender, or in other language, a compulsive 
payment, it is a most presumptuous attempt at 
arbitrary power. There can be no such power in 
a republican government: the people have no 
freedom, and property no security where this 
practise can be acted: and the committee who 
shall bring in a report for this purpose, or the 
member who moves for it, and he who seconds it 
merits impeachment, and sooner or later may ex- 
pect it. 

Of all the various sorts of base coin, paper 
money is the basest. It has the least intrinsic val- 
ue of anything that can be put in the place of 
gold and silver. A hobnail or a piece of wampum 
far exceeds it. And there would be more pro- 
priety in making those articles a legal tender than 
to make paper so. 

It was the issuing base coin, and establishing it 
as a tender, that was one of the principal means 
of finally overthrowing the power of the Stuart 
family in Ireland. The article is worth reciting 



as it bears such a resemblance to the process prac- 
tised in paper money. 

Brass and copper of the basest kind, old can- 
non, broken bells, household utensils were assiduously 
collected; and from every pound weight of such vile 
materials, valued at four pence, pieces were coined and 
circulated to the amount of five pounds normal value. 
By the first proclamation they were made current in 
all payments to and from the King and the subjects 
of the realm, except in duties on the importation of 
foreign goods, money left in trust, or due by mort- 
gage, bills or bonds ; and James promised that when 
the money should be decried, he would receive it in all 
payments, or make full satisfaction in gold and silver. 
The nominal value was afterwards raised by subsequent 
proclamations, the original restrictions removed, and 
this base money was ordered to be received in all kinds 
of payments. As brass and copper grew scarce, it 
was made of still viler materials, of tin and pewter, 
and old debts of one thousand pounds were discharged 
by pieces of vile metal amounting to thirty shillings 
in intrinsic value.* 

Had King James thought of paper, he needed 
not to have been at the trouble or expense of 
collecting brass and copper, broken bells, and 
household utensils. 

The laws of a country ought to be the stand- 
ard of equity, and calculated to impress on the 
minds of the people the moral as well as the legal 
obligations of reciprocal justice. But tender 

•Leland's "History of Ireland," Vol. IV. p. 265 



laws, of any kind, operate to destroy morality, 
and to dissolve, by the pretense of law, what 
ought to be the principle of law to support, recip- 
rocal justice between man and man: and the 
punishment of a member who should move for 
such a law ought to be death. 

When the recommendation of Congress, in the 
year 1780, for repealing the tender laws was be- 
fore the Assembly of Pennsylvania, on casting up 
the votes, for and against bringing in a bill to re- 
peal those laws, the numbers were equal, and the 
casting vote rested on the Speaker, Colonel Bay- 
ard. "I give my vote," said he, "for the repeal, 
from a consciousness of justice; the tender laws 
operate to establish iniquity by law." But when 
the bill was brought in, the House rejected it, 
and the tender laws continued to be the means of 

If anything had, or could have, a value equal 
to gold and silver, it would require no tender law : 
and if it had not that value it ought not to have 
such a law; and, therefore, all tender laws are 
tyrannical and unjust, and calculated to support 
fraud and oppression. 

Most of the advocates for tender laws are 
those who have debts to discharge, and who take 
refuge in such a law, to violate their contracts and 



cheat their creditors. But as no law can warrant 
the doing an unlawful act, therefore the proper 
mode of proceeding, should any such laws be en- 
acted in future, will be to impeach and execute 
the members who moved for and seconded such a 
bill, and put the debtor and the creditor in the 
same situation they were in, with respect to each 
other, before such a law was passed. Men ought 
to be made to tremble at the idea of such a bare- 
faced act of injustice. It is in vain to talk of re- 
storing credit, or complain that money cannot be 
borrowed at legal interest, until every idea of ten- 
der laws is totally and publicly reprobated and 
extirpated from among us. 

As to paper money, in any light it can be 
viewed, it is at best a bubble. Considered as prop- 
erty, it is inconsistent to suppose that the breath 
of an assembly, whose authority expires with the 
year, can give to paper the value and duration of 
gold. They cannot even engage that the next 
assembly shall receive it in taxes. And by the 
precedent, (for authority there is none,) that 
one assembly makes paper money, another may 
do the same, until confidence and credit are to- 
tally expelled, and all the evils of depreciation 
acted over again. The amount, therefore, of 
paper money is this, that it is the illegitimate 


offspring of assemblies, and when their year ex- 
pires, they leave a vagrant on the hands of the 

Having now gone through the three subjects 
proposed in the title to this work, I shall conclude 
♦vith offering some thoughts on the present affairs 
of the state. 

My idea of a single legislature was always 
founded on a hope, that whatever personal par- 
ties there might be in the state, they would all 
unite and agree in the general principles of good 
government — that these party differences would 
be dropped at the threshold of the state house, 
and that the public good, or the good of the 
whole, would be the governing principle of the 
legislature within it. 

Party dispute, taken on this ground, would 
only be, who should have the honor of making the 
laws; not what the laws should be. But when 
party operates to produce party laws, a single 
house is a single person, and subject to the haste, 
rashness and passion of individual sovereignty. 
At least, it is an aristocracy. 

The form of the present Constitution is now 
made to trample on its principles, and the con- 
stitutional members are anti-constitutional legis- 
lators. They are fond of supporting the form 



for the sake of the power, and they dethrone the 
principle to display the sceptre. 

The attack of the late Assembly on the bank, 
discovers such a want of moderation and prud- 
ence, of impartiality and equity, of fair and can- 
did inquiry and investigation, of deliberate and 
unbiased judgment, and such a rashness of think- 
ing and vengeance of power, as is inconsistent 
with the safety of the republic. It was judging 
without hearing, and executing without trial. 

By such rash, injudicious and violent proceed- 
ings, the interest of the state is weakened, its pros- 
perity diminished, and its commerce and its specie 
banished to other places. Suppose the bank had 
not been in an immediate condition to have stood 
such a sudden attack, what a scene of instant dis- 
tress would the rashness of that Assembly have 
brought upon this city and State. The holders 
of bank notes, whoever they might be, would have 
been thrown into the utmost confusion and diffi- 
culties. It is no apology to say the House never 
thought of this, for it was their duty to have 
thought of everything. 

But by the prudent and provident manage- 
ment of the bank, (though unsuspicious of the at- 
tack,) it was enabled to stand the run upon it 
without stopping payment a moment, and to pre- 


vent the evils and mischiefs taking place which 
the rashness of the Assembly had a direct ten- 
dency to bring on; a trial that scarcely a bank in 
Europe, under a similar circumstance, could have 

I cannot see reason sufficient to believe that 
the hope of the House to put down the bank was 
placed on the withdrawing the charter, so much 
as on the expectation of producing a bankruptcy 
of the bank, by starting a run upon it. If this 
was any part of their project it was a very wicked 
one, because hundreds might have been ruined to 
gratify a party spleen. 

But this not being the case, what has the at- 
tack amounted to, but to expose the weakness and 
raslmess, the want of judgment as well as jus- 
tice, of those who made it, and to confirm the 
credit of the bank more substantially than it was 

The attack, it is true, has had one effect, which 
is not in the power of the Assembly to remedy ; it 
has banished many thousand hard dollars from 
the State. By means of the bank, Pennsylvania 
had the use of a great deal of hard money belong- 
ing to citizens of other states, and that without 
any interest, for it laid here in the nature of de- 
posit, the depositors taking bank notes in its 



stead. But the alarm called those notes in and 
the owners drew out their cash. 

The banishing the specie served to make room 
for the paper money of the Assembly and we have 
now paper dollars where we might have had silver 
ones. So that the effect of the paper money has 
been to make less money in the state than there 
was before. Paper money is like dram-drinking, 
it relieves for a moment by deceitful sensation, but 
gradually diminishes the natural heat, and leaves 
the body worse than it found it. Were not this 
the case, and could money be made of paper at 
pleasure, every sovereign in Europe would be as 
rich as he pleased. But the truth is, that it is a 
bubble and the attempt vanity. Nature has pro- 
vided the proper materials for money, gold and 
silver, and any attempt of ours to rival her is 

But to conclude. If the public will permit 
the opinion of a friend who is attached to no 
party, and under obligation to none, nor at va- 
riance with any, and who through a long habit of 
acquaintance with them has never deceived them, 
that opinion shall be freely given. 

The bank is an institution capable of being 
made exceedingly beneficial to the State, not only 
as the means of extending and facilitating its 


commerce, but as a means of increasing the quan- 
tity of hard money in the State. The Assembly's 
paper money serves directly to banish or crowd 
out the hard, because it is issued as money and 
put in the place of hard money. But bank notes 
are of a very different kind, and produce a con- 
trary effect. They are promissory notes payable 
on demand, and may be taken to the bank and 
exchanged for gold or silver without the least 
ceremony or difficulty. 

The bank, therefore, is obliged to keep a con- 
stant stock of hard money sufficient for this pur- 
pose; which is what the Assembly neither does, 
nor can do by their paper; because the quantity 
of hard money collected by taxes into the treas- 
ury is trifling compared with the quantity that 
circulates in trade and through the bank. 

The method, therefore, to increase the quan- 
tity of hard money would be to combine the se- 
curity of the government and the bank into one. 
And instead of issuing paper money that serves 
to banish the specie, to borrow the sum wanted of 
the bank in bank notes, on the condition of the 
bank exchanging those notes at stated periods and 
quantities, with hard money. 

Paper issued in this manner, and directed to 
this end, would, instead of banishing, work itself 



into gold and silver; because it will then be both 
the advantage and duty of the bank and of all 
the mercantile interests connected with it, to pro- 
cure and import gold and silver from any part 
of the world, to give in exchange for the notes. 
The English Bank is restricted to the dealing in 
no other articles of importation than gold and 
silver, and we may make the same use of our 
bank if we proceed properly with it. 

Those notes will then have a double security, 
that of the government and that of the bank: 
and they will not be issued as money, but as host- 
ages to be exchanged for hard money, and will, 
therefore, work the contrary way to what the pa- 
per of the assembly, uncombined with the secur- 
ity of the bank, produces: and the interest al- 
lowed the bank will be saved to the government, 
by a saving of the expenses and charges attending 
paper emissions. 

It is, as I have already observed in the course 
of this work, the harmony of all the parts of a 
repubhc, that constitutes their several and mutual 
good. A government that is constructed only to 
govern, is not a republican government. It is 
combining authority with usefulness, that in a 
great measure distinguishes the republican sys- 
tem from others, 


Paper money appears, at first sight, to be a 
great saving, or rather that it costs nothing; but 
it is the dearest money there is. The ease with 
which it is emitted by an assembly at first, serves 
as a trap to catch people in at last. It oper- 
ates as an anticipation of the next year's taxes. 
If the money depreciates, after it is out, it then, 
as I have already remarked, has the effect of 
fluctuating stock, and the people become stock- 
jobbers to throw the loss on each other. 

If it does not depreciate, it is then to be sunk 
by taxes at the price of hard money; because the 
same quantity of produce, or goods, that would 
procure a paper dollar to pay taxes with, would 
procure a silver one for the same purpose. There- 
fore, in any case of paper money, it is dearer to 
the country than hard money, by all the expense 
which the paper, printing, signing, and other at- 
tendant charges come to, and at last goes into 
the fire. 

Suppose one hundred thousand dollars in pa- 
per money to be emitted every year by the as- 
sembly, and the same sum to be sunk every year 
by taxes, there will then be no more than one 
hundred thousand dollars out at any one time. If 
the expense of paper and printing, and of per- 
sons to attend the press while the sheets are strik- 



ing oif , signers, etc., be five per cent it is evident 
that in the course of twenty years' emissions, the 
one hundred thousand dollars will cost the coun- 
try two hundred thousand dollars. Because the 
papermaker's and printer's bills, and the expense 
of supervisors and signers, and other attendant 
charges, will in that time amount to as much as 
the money amounts to; for the successive emis- 
sions are but a re-coinage of the same sum. 

But gold and silver require to be coined but 
once, and will last an hundred years, better than 
paper will one year, and at the end of that time 
be still gold and silver. Therefore, the saving to 
government, in combining its aid and security 
with that of the bank in procuring hard money, 
will be an advantage to both, and to the whole 

The case to be provided against, after this, 
will be, that the Government do not borrow too 
much of the bank, nor the bank lend more notes 
than it can redeem; and, therefore, should any- 
thing of this kind be undertaken, the best way 
will be to begin with a moderate sum, and ob- 
serve the effect of it. The interest given the bank 
operates as a bounty on the importation of hard 
money, and which may not be more than the 
money expended in making paper emissions. 


But nothing of this kind, nor any other public 
undertaking, that requires security and duration 
beyond the year, can be gone upon under the 
present mode of conducting government. The 
late Assembly, by assuming a sovereign power 
over every act and matter done by the State in 
former assemblies, and thereby setting up a 
precedent of overhauling, and overturning, as the 
accident of elections shall happen or party pre- 
vail, have rendered government incompetent to 
all the great objects of the state. They have 
eventually reduced the public to an annual body 
like themselves; whereas the public are a stand- 
ing, permanent body, holding annual elections. 

There are several great improvements and un- 
dertakings, such as inland navigation, building 
bridges, opening roads of communication through 
the state, and other matters of a public benefit, 
that might be gone upon, but which now cannot, 
until this governmental error or defect is reme- 
died. The faith of government, under the pres- 
ent mode of conducting it, cannot be relied on. 
Individuals will not venture their money in un- 
dertakings of this kind, on an act that may be 
made by one assembly and broken by another. 

When a man can say that he cannot trust the 
government, the importance and dignity of the 
VIII-S8 379 


public is diminished, sapped and undermined; 
and, therefore, it becomes the pubhc to restore 
their own honor by setting these matters to rights. 

Perhaps this cannot be effectually done until 
the time of the next convention, when the prin- 
ciples, on which they are to be regulated and 
fixed, may be made a part of the constitution. 

In the meantime the public may keep their 
affairs in sufficient good order, by substituting 
prudence in the place of authority, and electing 
men into the government, who will at once throw 
aside the narrow prejudices of party, and make 
the good of the whole the ruling object of their 
conduct. And with this hope, and a sincere wish 
for their prosperity, I close my book. 



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